With Independence Day coming up this is a great time to focus on our two Bald Eagles, Gerald and Betty.

Gerald and Betty have been long time fixtures at the zoo, arriving here in 1988 from Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri.  In 1995 a new bald eagle enclosure was built near the front of the zoo as part of the aquarium construction.  They have been there ever since.

Both our bald eagles are on loan to us from the US Fish and Wildlife Service who own all the captive bald eagles in the United States.  They used to live in the wild, but were placed in captivity when they could no longer survive on their own without help. 

Gerald, our male, is missing a wing and can no longer fly.  We don’t know how it happened, but he was found in the UP near downed power 

lines.  Because he was a wild bird, we’re not sure exactly when he was born, but it was probably around April of 1982.  This makes him 32 years old.  As of this spring he weighs about 7 pounds.

Our female, Betty, was illegally taken into captivity by someone who wanted to keep her as a pet.  By the time she was rescued and the person who trapped her was prosecuted she had gotten too used to people to ever be released into the wild.  Her birthdate is listed as July 2, 1976, making her a bicentennial bird who just turned 38.  Like all female bald eagles, she’s larger than her mate and weighs 11 pounds.

While at John Ball Zoo Gerald and Betty raised five chicks.  Their chicks were taken to Tennessee and released boost the wild population.  So whenever you visit Gerald and Betty you can not only appreciate these majestic symbols of the United States, but also know that they did their part for bald eagle recovery and removing bald eagles from the endangered species list!

About Dan Hemmann

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Keeper Dan has always shown an interest in the small things.  This fascination led to a career in Entomology, the study of insects.  He also likes small people, and thinks zoos are one of the best ways to get kids excited about our natural world.  

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#1 Kimberly Manns said:

Great post! I had wondered about the age of the zoo's bald eagle couple. Question - I've googled this but haven't found anything - does anyone at the zoo know if President Ford and/or his wife ever visited the zoo and were able to see their namesakes?

#2 Gerri Tiggleman said:

What a great article! I never knew this information about our eagles. I have learned so much from these articles. It makes visiting the zoo a better experience. Keep up the good work.

#3 Joseff VanHorn said:

You should consider opening up their exhibit. The Detroit Zoo does not have cages over the birds so they look like they are in the open. It is a good feeling to have.

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