Our Education Birds: Thunder

Thunder, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), came to the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center in December of 1992. She was hatched and banded as a chick in a nest along the Delaware River in New York State in the Spring of 1992. At the time the Bald Eagle was still listed as an "endangered species." Thunder was a victim of a gunshot wound from a high-powered rifle. The bullet passed through the left thigh and the left wing. The wrist, which supports the primary flight feathers, was completely severed. The thigh was repairable, but the wing damage is permanent and she will never be able to be released. This incident occurred in Jackson County, WV, about 25 miles south of Parkersburg. The violator was never apprehended.

As her name implies, Thunder is a spirited, patient, wary and independent raptor, quite fitting to be our national symbol of freedom and the American spirit. She has quite the attitude and seems proud of that fact. The females are considerably larger than the males. She has a seven foot wingspan and weighs 12 pounds. She is a very large wild bird, making her difficult to work with. While she can be quite difficult at times and her intelligence making it an even greater challenge, she is a pleasure to work with.

Bald Eagles are not hatched with white heads and tails. For several years they are primarily brown. Thunder completed her 6th molt (one molt per year) before obtaining her white feathers. (She is pictured to the right as a juvenile) The name "bald" does not come from the bird appearing bald, as so many people think, but from one of the definitions of bald, which is "white". Thunder did not reach sexual maturity until age eight. Her disposition changed drastically at that time. She will not be used in a breeding program but is used extensively in our environmental education programs.

Return to Education Page

Thunder's Image Gallery:

Thunder and Mike
"Wings of Thunder" sculpture
Thunder at the Pow-wow
Thunder and Natasha
Thunder and Mike at Snowshoe
Thunder and Mike at Snowshoe 2
Thunder and Mike at Snowshoe 3


Site Map
Site Credits