The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores announced June 10 that Eagle Landing is set to open. The habitat for two flightless bald eagles, Uwohali and Shagoie Watha, is scheduled to open on the 4th of July.
Like everything else on the coast, the habitat, previously set to open Memorial Day, was delayed due to the ongoing effects of Hurricane Florence.
“It is a trickle-down effect. Materials and labor were hard to get into place after the hurricane,” said Clint Taylor, aquarium curator. “Although the habitat was completed by Memorial Day, we also needed time to allow the birds to acclimate to their new environment. Moving the habitat opening date was the best thing to do for the welfare of animals in our care.”
Eagle Landing is a 3,000- square -foot oasis with large perches and a rock pond designed entirely by aquarium staff to provide the non-flight birds a comfortable home.
The first bald eagle to arrive at the aquarium, Uwohali, came from the Cape Fear Raptor Center in Rocky Point. She is a juvenile who had both wings amputated near the wrist after being electrocuted by what staff believe was an encounter with powerlines. Her name, which means “one who soars with the creator,” comes from the Meherrin Indian Tribe and is pronounced “Oo-woe-hah-lee.”
The second bald eagle, Shagoie Watha, is an adult female who came to the aquarium from TreeHouse Wildlife Center in Dow, Illinois, with her left wing amputated just below the elbow after being found with an irreparable injury. Her name, which means “one who causes an awakening,” comes from the Meherrin Indian Tribe and is pronounced “Sha-go-ee-yay Wa-ta.”
Both are unable to fly and would not survive in the wild. The aquarium is honored to be able to provide them a permanent home and life-long care.
“I have wanted to work with eagles in any capacity my entire life,” said Amanda Goble, the aquarium’s aviculturist, who has worked with birds for more than 10 years. “This is truly a childhood dream. Being able to care for them and work with them every day is a huge responsibility and a complete honor.”
Aquarium staff thought the birds should have names that truly describe the strength and resilience both birds have shown, and that also reflected the eagle’s strong connection to American Indian culture found in North Carolina. The aquarium worked closely with the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs and North Carolina's tribes to create a short list of names for each bird and Facebook fans were offered the chance to vote for the names in March.
Naming is an important part of the care and training of each bird. It helps build relationships between trainer and bird, fosters respect and awareness for the animal, and creates a connection with visitors.
The birds are trained through positive reinforcement to build new skills and learn new behaviors. This helps with health assessments and veterinary care, and also enables the birds to be comfortable in new situations. This was especially important last year before Hurricane Florence when other birds in the aquarium’s care were moved to new and safer locations inside the building during the storm.
The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach at 1 Roosevelt Blvd., Pine Knoll Shore. The aquarium is open 9am-5pm daily. For more information, see www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores or call 252-247-4003.