JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – After twenty years of residency at the Audubon Community Nature Center, “Liberty” the Bald Eagle has passed away. Now, the Jamestown community is remembering her life and legacy.
“We know she was at least 25 based on the fact she had her full head of white feathers when she was found out in the wild, but she may have been much older. So we don’t really know her exact age. We knew this day was potentially coming. In the wild traditionally eagles are known to live between 20 and 30 years. So we’ve been kinda knowing to keep an eye on her and watch for any kind of symptoms of stress or strain,” says Executive Director Leigh Rovegno.
The center had planned on taking her to Cornell after noticing a decline in her health the last few weeks. Currently, the director does not believe Liberty’s death on Tuesday was due to the avian flu.
“We’re hoping to learn more tomorrow. Her remains will be taken to Cornell to be examined and they’ll give us a full report so that we have a better understanding of exactly what happened,” says Rovegno.
The iconic bird first arrived at the Nature Center in 2002 from the State of Washington, where she was discovered with an injured wing.
Following years of rehabilitation, Liberty was declared non-releasable due to her injury. She then called Audubon Community Nature Center in Jamestown home. A group of volunteers spent two years building a structure just for her.
“She’s been sort of the face of Audubon for the last 20 years. More so than any of our staff or any human representation,” says Rovegno. “Liberty really is, people see that image and they think of Audubon, so losing her is very significant and it’s gonna take us a while to recover.”
Rovegno says animals like Liberty gives people, especially children, the chance to connect up close with wildlife they may see in their everyday lives. These unreleasable animals help teach about habitat loss and endangered species as bald eagles once were.
“Especially right now that we do see them so often in the wild, it really is that American sort of reminder of recovery too. And again that there is hope and there is a possibility to help these incredible animals if we really put our minds to it,” says Rovegno.
Now that Liberty is gone, the center will look into renovating her structure to bring it up to date for any other bird that may call it home.
One volunteer, Thom Armella, visited Liberty almost every week since she came to the Audubon and has spent over 7000 hours caring for her.
Longtime member of the Audubon Tom Erlandson recalled earlier this year when Liberty had a visitor.
“We came down one day and there were others here watching of course, but there was a wild I think an immature bald eagle sitting on top of Liberty’s enclosure and it was there for quite some time,” says Erlandson.
Though Erlandson is saddened by her passing, he hopes that one day another bird will be able to call her structure home.