The Norman Transcript

March 1, 2014

Pair of eagles from rehabilitation aviary educate and amaze Jefferson students

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — For almost 40 minutes straight, hand after hand shot into the air as students asked question after question at Jefferson Elementary on Friday. Engaged and intrigued, shouts of glee periodically went through the library as Woody, a Bald Eagle, stretched his wingspan and tried to take flight indoors. Eagles from the Grey Snow Eagle House in Perkins, Okla. showed off their magnificence while students learned about the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, their eagle aviary and the tribe’s connection and reverence for eagles.

Brett Clark, co-assistant manager of the eagle house, said eagles were important to his tribe because they believe eagles were the last to see the creator.

“We also believe eagles take our prayers up to the creator and their feathers have positive energy,” Clark explained.

The tribe takes feathers from healthy eagles whose feathers have molted off or feathers from the eagles in the aviary that are being rehabilitated and have molted off. Clark said the tribe would never take feathers from a sick or injured eagle. The eagle is so sacred to the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma that they bury eagles whole in a secret burial ground.

With four-year-old Golden Eagle Arby perched on her arm, Megan Trope, co-assistant manager of the eagle house, explained that there are 28 species of eagles world wide but in North America there are only the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle. Grey Snow Eagle House currently has 45 eagles, 12 Golden Eagles and 33 Bald Eagles.

Eagles can have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet and grow about 10 to 14 pounds, with females about 30 percent bigger than males. Trope said most of the eagles that are injured are hurt by wind blades or lead poisoning.

“The blades move very quickly and eagles look down when they fly, not in front of them, so they don’t see them and run into them,” she said.

Lead poisoning is even more detrimental to eagles and often occurs when hunters leave the entrails of an animal after a kill, microscopic pieces of the bullet remain and eagles digest the pieces. Lead poisoning can remain dormant within the eagle until the eagle’s immune system weakens.

“Over the past 8 years, we’ve released 11 back into the wild,” Trope said. “We hope to get three back into the wild this year.”

As Woody tried to take off in the room once again and knocked Clark on the back of the head, he said that the workers become friends with the eagles, but the eagles still let them know who is boss,

“Sometimes he’ll do it even harder,” Clark said, then laughed.

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma developed an eagle rehabilitation program to protect injured eagles and increase community awareness of wildlife and Native American culture in January 2006 through funds provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Iowa Tribe.

The tribe has a Religious-Use Permit that allows the tribe to house eagles that are non-releasable due to the nature or severity of the injuries. This permit also allows the tribe to gather naturally molted feathers and distribute them to tribal members for use in cultural ceremonies. Additionally, the tribe has permits to rehabilitate eagles for their eventual release, take them out to teach the general public about eagles and Native American culture, and to study eagles for future conservation efforts.

The Iowa Tribe is the first tribe in the country to be permitted through the USFWS as Eagle Rehabilitators. To date, the aviary has had over 8,000 visitors from around the world.

For more information, visit


eagle-aviary or facebook

.com/greysnoweaglehouse, or call 334-7471.


Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.