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Chehaw Bald Eagle meets new mate

Giles, a 6-year-old male Bald Eagle, right, enjoys some time to himself after being matched with Peppermint Patty, left. Patty’s mate passed away some two years ago and Chehaw recently found Giles at the Foundation to Protect America’s Eagle, housed at Dollywood theme park in Tennessee.

Giles, a 6-year-old male Bald Eagle, right, enjoys some time to himself after being matched with Peppermint Patty, left. Patty’s mate passed away some two years ago and Chehaw recently found Giles at the Foundation to Protect America’s Eagle, housed at Dollywood theme park in Tennessee.

ALBANY, Ga. — Peppermint Patty, Chehaw Wild Animal Park’s female bald eagle, had been a solitary bird since her mate passed away two years ago. Now the park has brought Patty together with Giles, a male eagle obtained from the Foundation to Protect America’s Eagles.

The foundation is housed at Dollywood, a theme park in Tennessee, said Kevin Hils, zoo director at Chehaw.

Hils said the foundation is headed by Al Cecere, who regularly flies “Challenger,” his male bald eagle, at Super Bowls, the World Series and similar events to offset costs of rehabilitating bald eagles. Giles has recovered enough from a gunshot wound to his leg to appear and be cared for at a zoo. While Giles was nursed to health in the Tennessee mountains, Hils thinks he may have originated further south, perhaps in Georgia or Florida.

“Peppermint Patty is subspecies of bald eagle native to Florida,” Hils said, “so she’s a relatively small bird for a female. The further south you find bald eagles, the smaller they are, generally.”

According to Hils, female eagles are usually larger than males and since “females rule,” when it comes to mating, it was important that Patty’s partner be on the smallish side. Giles is something of a “skinny little dude for a bald eagle,” Hils said.

In April Chehaw brought Giles to Georgia and, while he stayed in quarantine, the eagle cage underwent some basic renovation, thanks to donations to the memory of Marjorie D. Botti, who died in 2008, and from her children, Stephen Botti and Joanna Baxter of LaGrange.

According to Baxter, Marjorie Botti was a Chehaw volunteer for more than 20 years and was known at the Park as the “eagle lady,” though she maintained a broad interest in all the animals and for the environment in general. According to Chehaw officials, not only was the eagle cage “fixed up,” but vines and trees were trimmed, perching added and the stream bed eagles’ nest redone.

“Mom was dedicated to Chehaw and proud of what she did for them,” Baxter said. “She loved to go out to the park. There’s still a big alligator named “Margorie” there.”

According to Baxter, her mother was also active with the Audubon Society and for Tift Park, having been instrumental in having it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.