The story of Phoenix the Golden Eagle began in the 1980s, just before Wildlife Images became an official non-profit organization. He was a small chick and had either fallen or was pushed out of the nest by a sibling, and landed on a remote logging road out of Brookings, Oregon. He was much too young to fly or take care of himself. Luckily for Phoenix, a log truck driver saw him in the middle of a road, picked him up and placed the then fuzzy chick in a hard hat on the seat of the truck.
That spring afternoon, J. David Siddon (founder of Wildlife Images) received a phone call from the truck driver who had retrieved the helpless bird, asking if someone could come get the young eagle. Since the public had often been incorrect in identifying baby birds by phone, J. David Siddon asked his son Dave to go pick up the bird from the coast. After a long ride, Dave was greeted at the door by a kind-hearted man with his hard hat under his arm, which contained a softball-sized bundle of fluff. It was indeed an eaglet. Phoenix’s journey was just beginning.
When Phoenix arrived at Wildlife Images, he was dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from exposure. In his weakened condition, he presented J. David Siddon and Dave with some real challenges. In fact, the father-son team nearly lost Phoenix many times during the several months of his rehabilitation. “In the early days of wildlife rehabilitation, imprinting a patient wasn’t a major concern. We just wanted to make sure we saved him,” says Dave, the current Executive Director of Wildlife Images
And they did! Phoenix grew to be an exceptional bird in many ways, but unfortunately, he was deemed non-releasable because of his fondness for humans. Nevertheless, Phoenix’s life has contributed significantly to educating and garnering a deeper appreciation for his species, the magnificent Golden Eagle.
Phoenix has appeared in thousands of educational programs across the nation, made a few famous friends with John Denver and Ernest Borgnine and he has starred in many film productions such as:
- TV Special “Rocky Mountain Reunion (1980) – Directed by Mark Stouffer
- Short Film ‘UP’ (1985) – Mike Hoover Productions
- Mountain Family Robinson (1979) – Directed by Jack Couffer
Phoenix was also the feature attraction in the Birds of Prey show at the Oregon Zoo for 12 years, under the watchful eye of Dave who worked there at the time. As the star of the show, Phoenix performed daily, flying over the heads of thousands of people during the summer show. When Dave took the reigns at Wildlife Images for his late father, he and Phoenix returned to Southern Oregon to continue educating the public and making lasting impressions.
Large birds of prey like eagles can reach ages over 40 years in captivity. This mature age range can present a unique set of challenges when managing the care and quality of life of more senior residents.
During one exam, the medical team noted that Phoenix had developed a cataract in his left eye, which had become quite advanced and was impacting his vision. Dr. Cassandra Bliss of Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center was consulted to offer possibilities for improving his eyesight. Dr. Bliss then worked with Wildlife Images to secure the donation from I-Med Pharma of Phoenix’s new eye lens, so surgery was scheduled for February 3rd 2016. With the new lens, Phoenix can continue working as an educational ambassador with the highest quality of life possible!
Wildlife Images strives to provide the best care possible for all of the animals that find themselves in need of some extra TLC, whether they become permanent residents, or just patients passing through on their way back to the wild.