The American Eagle Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States and symbol of our freedom and independence. They support the conservation of these majestic birds all over the country by giving out $100,000 in annual Bald Eagle Grants. But did you know they partnered with Dolly Parton?
In 1985 Al Cecere decided to dedicate his life to the preservation of bald eagles after reading an article that reported the birds were on the brink of extinction. The American Eagle Foundation (AEF) originally started with volunteers spreading the word outside of their local Nashville Walmarts. Fast forward to 1990, and that's where Parton and Dollywood come into the picture. Cecere and Parton entered a multi-year corporate partnership to build the United States Eagle Center at her theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Dollywood has received authorization to care for the birds from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Over thirty years later, the Eagle Center has bred/released 166 bald eagles into the Smoky Mountains. Many came from the center's non-releasable pairs of bald eagles who had mated with each other in the wild before entering the center. Focused on preserving the breed but also on providing education, care for the non-releasable birds, rehabilitation, bald eagle breeding and release, the AEF indeed has made a difference.
If you find yourself in the area, definitely stop by Dollywood and visit the Wings of America Birds of Prey show. Over 70 birds live and receive care at the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary which is the largest exhibit of non-releasable bald eagles in the entire country. Visitors can walk through the 30,000-square-foot aviary in their mountain setting and watch AEF members interact with the animals.
If you visit Eagles.org, you can actually view the Dollywood Bald Eagles via their nest cams. (You can also see the Dollywood eagles here.) They have archived years of footage where you can see the eagle nest during nesting season. All birds born at the sanctuary will be transferred to the AEF hatching tower at 6-7 weeks of age where they can get acclimated and trained to be released back into the wild.