The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will soon be home to a new exhibit for bald eagles.
Eagle Landing, the habitat for two flightless bald eagles, Uwohali and Shagoie Watha, is scheduled to open Thursday, July 4.
Like other projects along the Crystal Coast, work on the the habitat, previously set to open Memorial Day, was delayed due to Hurricane Florence.
“It is a trickle-down effect. Materials and labor were hard to get into place after the hurricane,” Clint Taylor, aquarium curator, said in a recent press release. “Although the habitat was completed by Memorial Day, we also needed time to allow the birds to acclimate to their new environment. Moving the habitat opening date was the best thing to do for the welfare of animals in our care.”
Eagle Landing is a 3,000-square-foot oasis with large perches and a rock pond designed entirely by aquarium staff to provide the non-flighted birds a comfortable home.
The first bald eagle to arrive at the aquarium, Uwohali, came from the Cape Fear Raptor Center in Rocky Point.
She is a juvenile who had both wings amputated near the wrist after being electrocuted in what staff believe was an encounter with power lines.
Her name, which means “one who soars with the creator,” comes from the Meherrin tribe and is pronounced “oo-woe-hah-lee.”
The second bald eagle, Shagoie Watha, is an adult female who came to the aquarium from TreeHouse Wildlife Center in Dow, Ill., with her left wing amputated just below the elbow after being found with an irreparable injury.
Her name, which means “one who causes an awakening,” comes from the Meherrin tribe and is pronounced “Sha-go-ee-yay Wa-ta.”
Aquarium staff thought the birds should have names that truly describe the strength and resilience they have shown and that also reflect the eagle’s strong connection to Native American cultures found in North Carolina.
The aquarium worked closely with the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs and tribes to create a short list of names for each bird. Facebook fans were offered the chance to vote for their favorite names in March.
Naming is an important part of the care and training of each bird, according to the aquarium. It helps build relationships between trainer and bird, fosters respect and awareness for the animal and creates a connection with visitors.
As the eagles are unable to fly, they would not survive in the wild. Instead the aquarium will provide them a permanent home and life-long care.
“I have wanted to work with eagles in any capacity my entire life,” said Amanda Goble, the aquariums’ aviculturist, who has worked with birds for more than 10 years. “This is truly a childhood dream. Being able to care for them and work with them every day is a huge responsibility and a complete honor.”