One of Juneau’s most famous birds has adjusted to her new home, high atop Mount Roberts.
Lady Baltimore, a bald eagle injured by a gunshot more than a decade ago, has long called the mountain and its mew her home, but following the pandemic, has palatial new digs built by the Juneau Raptor Center.
“The original one we had for a handful of years was, per, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations and sizes, as it should have been, but those were the minimum requirements,” siad Jaimie Rountree, operations manager for the raptor center. “We wanted to do something bigger and more comfortable for the bird.”
Lady Baltimore, a female bald eagle, came to the raptor center in 2006, Rountree said.
“She was called in — she’d been shot. Somebody saw an eagle on the ground over in the Douglas area with a lot of damage to the beak,” Rountree said. “It took us a few tries (to get her)- she was nimble.”
Standard practice for the raptor center is to help the birds back to health, while assessing their quality of life, Rountree said.
“You take ‘em in and you fix, heal, to the best they can ever be, whatever injuries brought them in to you. And then you have to sit back and assess if this bird is going to have any quality of life living in the chaos of humanity,” Rountree said. “Just because they’re alive doesn’t mean you keep them in captivity.”
Some birds are non-releasable, their injuries rendering them unable to survive in the wild. Permanently rehoming an eagle like Lady Baltimore is quite a process, which goes through USFWS, Rountree said. Some birds lack the temperament to coexist with humans, but Lady Baltimore displayed remarkable adaptability, Rountree said.
“She wasn’t a large eagle, so we were thinking this could very well be a male. She was a very calm bird. Nothing shook her up or rattled her,” Rountree said. “She figured it out quick and adapted to it.”
Lady Baltimore was formerly Lord Baltimore, Rountree said, so named for her stoic temperament whilst the raptor center was still inadvertently misgendering her.
“Because of her easygoing personality, we wanted to name her something stately and regal,” Rountree said.
Female bald eagles are noticeably larger than the males of the species, Rountree said. When Lady Baltimore was rehomed to former Juneau Raptor Center manager Kathy Benner’s property, the misapprehension that Lady Baltimore was male was swiftly corrected, Rountree said.
“We had a member who had property and had a flight mew. (She was) much more vocal in the flight mew,” Rountree said. “We have found at least in captivity, usually the females are more vocal, more talkative. We don’t generally find that the males are very vocal.”
After becoming more socialized with humans, Lady Baltimore took her spot atop the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tram, where she’s settled into her element in this stage of her life, Rountree said.
“She’s not the first eagle we’ve had up here. With love and respect to the others that have been up there, she’s one of the best,” Rountree said. “She behaves differently (around guests), almost like she’s listening to their conversations and is chatting with them.”
Lady Baltimore arrived at the raptor center as an adult, Rountree said, and so her age in unclear. The oldest bald eagle in captivity is more than half a century old, Rountree said. Her new mew is designed to keep her comfortable, stimulated and engaged, Rountree said.
“You can’t keep them in a small dark little box. There’s got to be light. There’s got to be a heat source. There’s got to be smooth walls so there’s nothing that will grab and catch feathers and pull,” Rountree said. These birds have… they’re not rocket scientists, but they’re smarter than you give them credit for. You don’t want to put this creature in a room for hours on end with nothing to do.”
The new mew, designed by Jensen Yorba Wall, cost nearly $300,000, Rountree said, and was purpose-built to offer an airy, comfortable summer home for Lady Baltimore. Much of the cost came from helicoptering up building materials, Rountree said.
“It is so different compared to the old one or the one she overwinters in,” Rountree said. “There’s so much for her to look over and check out. There’s different surfaces for her to stand on, different perch shapes for her to stand on.”
Visitors to Lady Baltimore’s new summer home are generally excited to interact with her, as she chips in to their conversations in her own inimitable way, Rountree said.
“In general, 90% of the people are happy, they’re thrilled. The return people, they’re thrilled to see her back again, to visit with her again before they go on their way,” Rountree said. “So many people from so many different countries that don’t have birds like this in their part of the world, or people that do that get to see them so much closer… it’s so great to see my town, Juneau Alaska, through a visitor. It’s great to see Lady Baltimore up close. She’s squawking, she’s talking, she’s hollering.”
Lady Baltimore is in residence for the summer, with a naturalist in accompaniment for viewing most days between about 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Rountree said.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or email@example.com.