A Steller’s sea eagle named Kodiak escaped from its enclosure at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh on September 25th, and thanks to the valiant efforts of the Aviary staff, was found and brought back to the Aviary on Sunday.
According to a statement posted to the Aviary website at 8:15PM Sunday, a team of the Aviary’s animal care experts spotted Kodiak — Kody to his friends— in a suburb of Pittsburgh north of the Aviary. The Aviary team used “professional falconry techniques and equipment” to retrieve the bird and bring him home to the Aviary.
Kody is a bird that would be difficult to miss: he’s large (although in Pittsburgh we probably wouldn’t call him “giant” because “Giant Eagle” is a grocery store chain here), with a yellow beak, white tail and white feathers on the tops of his wings. He’s bigger than a bald eagle, and has a wingspan of about six feet.
The Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) typically weighs between 13 and 20 pounds, and stands about four feet tall. It has no natural predators, according to the Aviary, but Kody has lived in captivity for 15 of his 16 years, so he may be a little rusty on the whole hunting/prey thing. Steller’s sea eagles eat fish, and more fish, “scavenged mammals” (ew) and even other birds “when fish is in short supply.” And in case you wondered, they’re named for German naturalist Georg W. Steller, who encountered the birds on a visit to Alaska in 1741.
The Aviary posted frequent updates to social media and kept getting tantalizingly close to retrieving Kody, but he eluded them for more than a week. I was half-hoping Kody might make some kind of majestic appearance at the September 26th Steelers’ game since Heinz Field is not far from the Aviary, and the team was at home against the Bengals (we’re not going to talk about that game today, though). Alas, he did not.
On Thursday, the Aviary’s animal care experts camped out to monitor his roost in a high tree in the North Park area of the city, and they confirmed he was in good condition. They tried to entice him with some food, but he didn’t come down. But look at this handsome, handsome boi:
Many people— including me, before I moved to Pittsburgh a thousand years ago— don’t know what a hidden gem the National Aviary is, or, that it’s in Pittsburgh. Their penguins are usually the big celebrities (hi, this is Pittsburgh), but they also have very cute— as well as very large—owls, eagles, flamingos, falcons, and canaries among other birds. You can sign up for educational “animal encounters” with many of the birds— I recall visiting when my son was little; we sat in a large auditorium where some birds of prey were flying around, and we got like a popsicle stick with some food on it (I would prefer not to think about what the food actually was) and you’d hold it up until one of the birds swooped down to eat it. Extremely awesome.
The Aviary said on Sunday that a veterinary exam found Kody in “excellent” health, and added he was “enjoying healthy meals of fresh meat” while he rests up from his adventure. The Aviary thanked the community for its help locating their missing bird.
“The entire team at the National Aviary is extremely relieved to have Kody back, and would like to share our gratitude to the community of supporters who helped in these efforts.”
Update October 4th 8:45AM ET: Adds the news of Kodiak’s return to the Aviary