SOAR hosts program at Le Grand library

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY – Savannah Judson, an education specialist with Save Our Avian Resources (SOAR), showcases a bald eagle named Thora during a presentation at the Le Grand Pioneer Heritage Library on Sunday afternoon.

LE GRAND — Because of its status as the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle holds a special place in the hearts of Americans. Still, as a crowded program at the Le Grand Pioneer Heritage Library on Sunday demonstrated, there is still plenty to learn about the majestic creatures, and Savannah Judson and Kay Newman of Save Our Avian Resources (SOAR) did their best to inform those in attendance and answer any questions they had.

Judson said the program was SOAR’s first in-person event in about six months, and Thora, an eagle rescued from Clay County, was well-behaved as she returned to the spotlight in a room with at least 50 people on hand. She gave the audience some basic background on Thora and bald eagles in general before bringing her out of the cage and allowing for photos to be taken.

Thora, Judson explained, suffers from partial blindness due to exposure to lead-based bullets, and she is anywhere between 18 and 40 years old — because they rescued her from the wild, they can’t say for sure. When hunters shoot animals, bald eagles, like vultures, often feast on parts of the corpses, and exposure to any amount of lead can permanently damage their vision.

After Judson presented for about a half hour, she took questions from those in the audience both young and old for about 40 minutes — on everything from how far they can turn their necks to whether or not they get their nails trimmed (they do) — and still had more people walking up to ask questions or make comments after the program concluded. She was happy about the level of enthusiasm and did her best to provide a full response to every inquiry.

“Especially this crowd I think today was very interested. When I asked how many people watched the Decorah eagle cam, and 90 percent of them raised their hands. They’re very invested in all things eagle,” Judson said. “This crowd probably had a little bit more curiosity and more detail in questions than some of the crowds before.”

Both Newman and Judson said one of the biggest misconceptions about bald eagles is that since they’ve been designated the national bird, they are now abundant and thriving at unprecedented levels. While it’s true they are no longer considered an endangered species, there were approximately 500,000 bald eagles when European settlers first arrived in North America, and today, the number is closer to 100,000. In Iowa, the winter count was 5,000, and in the springtime, there are only about 500 nesting pairs.

“They’re working their way back but not to where they were,” Newman said.

While Newman said it’s impossible to prevent all accidental deaths of Eagles, she does hope sharing the information about lead-based bullets will encourage hunters to consider making a change to steel or copper casings.

“This is something completely preventable, so we’re hoping to get people to switch to non-toxic shot bullets,” Newman said. “Poisoning wildlife is never good conservation.”

To learn more about SOAR, which is based in Carroll County, visit soarraptors.org.


Contact Robert Maharry at

641-753-6611 ext. 255 or



Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today