2018 Dollywood Nesting Season

The American Eagle Foundation has nesting pairs of non-releasable Bald Eagles at two separate locations.

A vast, 400,000 cubic-foot aviary on Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood, is home to two breeding pairs, Isaiah & Mrs. Jefferson, and Glenda & Grant. These two eagle pairs can be viewed through high definition video cams, and during the nesting season, a Moderated Chat welcomes visitors and provides information about each pair.

This season, one night each week featured a time on Chat where a particular raptor species or subject matter (i.e. feathers, respiratory system, training, nesting, and annual physicals) was given special attention, and questions posed by our chatters were answered by an AEF staff member and/or moderators.

There is also our Pick-A-Mate section, home of eligible bachelor and bachelorettes Eagles—all with physical disabilities but with at least partial flight ability. Many of our Bald Eagle breeding pairs throughout the years have resulted from two Eagles from this section choosing each other as mates, at which point they are given their own private enclosure with the hope that they will reproduce and raise Eaglets that will be released into the wild.

At the bottom of the hill, a smaller, level area houses non-releasable eagles that have no flight ability (serious flight limitations / or wing amputations).

The second location also in Pigeon Forge, TN is the home for the AEF’s Headquarters. Private scheduled tours are provided so that visitors can see the breeding facilities, as well as many of the educational raptors who reside at this location.

Isalah and Mrs. Jefferson Top: Isaiah (Left) and Mrs. Jefferson (Right)
Below: The pool at the bottom of their enclosure is a favorite place to cool off.

Mrs. Jefferson & Isaiah (MJ & I) have hatched and raised numerous young as a part of the AEF’s Captive Breeding and Hacking programs. They have also been wonderful foster parents.

Enjoy some memories of this pair and their eaglet during the 2018 Nesting Season. (Hovering over the slide with your curser will pause the slideshow.)

Isaiah is a fully-flighted, but permanently disabled Bald Eagle. He was shot in the left eye, leaving him unable to survive in the wild. He arrived at the AEF in 1991 and mated with Mrs. Jefferson.

Mrs. Jefferson is easily recognized by the dark feathers in her face. Mrs. Jefferson is blind in her left eye and has a missing hallux, which makes her non-releasable. She & Isaiah bonded in the Pick-A-Mate section.

Isaiah (back) and Mrs. Jefferson (front) perched together in the aviary.

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson enjoy their time together at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.

A new eaglet for Isaiah & Mrs. Jefferson! MJI-16! Both parents took good care of their baby and gave it a great start. Their other 2 eggs did not hatch.

MJI-16 is carefully fed a tiny bite from an experienced parent. Photo made 4-22-18.

MJI-16 gets round-the-clock attention from both Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson!

Sleeping peacefully in the safety of the nest with an attentive parent close by.

MJI-16 growing up strong in the nest. Photo taken 5-20-18.

Isaiah, Mrs. Jefferson, and their eaglet. Photo taken 5-20-18.

Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson perched together.

How cute is this! Photo of MJI-16 taken 4-26-18.

Pin feathers! MJI-16 has grown so big! Before long there will be a graduation to the Hack Tower on Douglas Lake where this eaglet will bond with the natural environment into which he will one day soar free.

Isaiah has a little alone time on the hillside.

Sequoyah (MJI-16) was named by Nest Cam Education & Policy Coordinator Crystal Slusher, in honor of her Mom, Mae Shiflett. Sequoyah was taken to the Hack Tower on June 11, & released into the wild on July 18.

Sequoyah fledged from AEF's Hack Tower on Douglas Lake in East Tennessee on July 18, 2018.

Sequoyah flew beautifully and safely landed in a tree. We wish Sequoya safe journeys and a long life!

With their eaglet grown and flown, Mrs. Jefferson and Isaiah enjoy some down time in the aviary. Their feathers are wet from rain, but the coolness is a welcome relief from summer heat!

Our beautiful eagles, Mrs. Jefferson & Isaiah!

In 2018, Mrs. Jefferson laid 3 eggs—March 2nd, 6th, & 10th. Although 2 eggs were not viable, one egg hatched on April 15 and the eaglet was given all the attention and care possible by these 2 wonderful eagles.

A video made in March shows both parents taking turns brooding the eggs!

The eaglet (MJI16) was taken to the hack tower on June 11th so that it could identify with the wildness of the area.

Named “Sequoyah” by Eagle Nest Cam Education & Policy Coordinator Crystal Slusher, in honor of her Mom, Mae Shiflett, it was successfully released on July 18th, wearing wing tag M18 and weighing 8lb 9.6oz. We cannot be absolutely certain as to Sequoyah’s sex, as no blood sample was taken, but measurements strongly suggest a male. Sequoyah was eager to leave the enclosure, and soared beautifully out of the gate before the bars had fully raised. Making a beautiful first flight, Sequoyah landed safely in a tree.

Top row: Glenda, Glenda & Grant, Grant; Middle row: Glenda & Grant, Glenda; Bottom row: Grant, Glenda, Grant.

Glenda & Grant are permanently disabled, non-releasable Bald Eagles that were transferred to the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge. Both Glenda and Grant were residents in our Pick-a-Mate section. In 2017, it was observed that they had developed an attraction for each other. Following that observation, Glenda and Grant were removed from the Pick-a-Mate section and placed in their own private compartment on the Eagle Mountain SanctuaryThis season, their first together as a bonded pair, Glenda laid two eggs—March 11 and March 14. One egg was observed to be broken on March 19, and the other egg contained an underdeveloped eaglet which did not appear to be alive on cam April 20.

Enjoy a few slides from the first nesting season of Glenda and Grant!

It's easy to tell Glenda and Grant apart. Glenda is much larger than Grant, and Grant's beak was injured, resulting in a very obvious ding that's instantly recognizable. They enjoy their space on the mountain!

Grant enjoys a cooling bath while Glenda gets a drink!

Grant and Glenda perch side-by-side on the limb going up to their nest.

Another look at Glenda and Grant. Aren't they awesome?

Grant rests in the nest, while Glenda perches on the rail.

Grant perches on a log in the aviary.

Hello, Grant!

Glenda - posed just perfectly!

Grant (left) and Glenda relax on the side of their nest.

Glenda enjoys cooling off in the tub!

Early spring leaves appear on a bush in front of the log that has become a favorite place for Glenda to perch.

Enjoying the spa service on Eagle Mountain Sanctuary!

Late in the season, Grant returned to the Pick-A-Mate section when a gate was accidentally left open in Glenda & Grant’s compartment.  These two will be reunited when the eagles are gathered up for their annual physicals in the fall.

Non-Releasable Bald Eagle Nesting Pairs Off Site

Spacious compartments afford nesting and flying space for other non-releasable Bald Eagles. Those private compartments are home to the following bonded pairs:

Perhaps the most famous pair now residing off site are Independence and Franklin. For many years our viewers followed their nesting seasons on our high definition cams and enjoyed watching them care for the many eaglets they successfully raised.

For the last year or so, the hilly environment in our Dollywood aviary has been daunting for Independence to navigate. After extensive damage to their compartment resulting from two bad storms, it became even more difficult for Independence to walk up and down the hill. In November 2017, the pair was removed from Eagle Mountain Sanctuary to a spacious compartment at the AEF National Eagle Center in Pigeon Forge, TN, where it is much easier for them to get around.

Eaglets Hatched & Raised Off Site

Honor and Braveheart’s egg hatched on April 3, 2018 and was taken to the hack tower on June 8, where it was released on July 11. This eaglet was named “Lil Honor” to recognize First Responders from Jefferson County, Dandridge, Sevierville and Seymour. Lil Honor wears wing tag R18,  and weighed 9lb at the time of release.

Freedom and Faithful Spirit laid two eggs. Egg 1 hatched on March 27, 2018 and was raised by the parents until it was taken to the hack tower on May 24. There it became acclimated to the natural surroundings of the area and came to identify that area as its home. It was given the name “Lil Freedom” in honor of Army Specialist Daniel Harrison. Lil Freedom was released July 6 wearing wing tag H18, and weighed 8lb 9.5 oz at the time of release.

The second egg hatched on March 28 and was also successfully raised by Freedom and Faithful Spirit until taken to the hack tower on May 24. Given the name “My Brother’s Keeper” in honor of LCPL Jason Redifer, the eaglet was released on July 26, wearing wing tag A18,  and weighing 8lb 9.6 oz at the time of release.


Other Eaglets Released from AEF’s Hack Tower This Season

The AEF Hack Tower is one of the last few remaining active hacking sites in the United States, so when an eaglet needs a place from which to launch, the AEF’s facility is frequently used by other centers around the country.

This season, an eaglet from the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida in Pensacola was received by the AEF on May 2, and then released on June 8. Named “Humble T” in honor of Travis Burge who died in an ATV accident, this eaglet wears wing tag F18 and weighed 8 lbs 9.6 oz upon being released.

Also, when the eaglets from our Smoky Mountain Nest in Sevierville had to be removed from their nest on May 22 because of fishing line and hooks being continually brought into the nest, the eaglets were subsequently placed in AEF’s Hack Tower on Douglas Lake. On June 28, the three eaglets, Luna (wearing wing tag L18), Phoenix (wearing wing tag P18), and Nova (wearing wing tag N18) successfully fledged.

Photos from the 2018 Season