ARLINGTON — Sarvey Wildlife Care Center in Arlington recently opened a new aviary designed for the recovery of ill, injured or abandoned American bald eagles and other large birds of prey.

The 100-foot aviary is a long, tall structure built to provide raptors with room to fly — something they must be able to do before being released back into their natural habitats.

“We are excited to have the ability to provide our patients with this new aviary to better prepare them for release back to the wild,” Sarvey Executive Director Suzanne West said. “An aviary like this one is used in the final stage of the rehabilitation process and is a critical step in assessing the birds for release.”

In 2020, Sarvey treated 21 eagles and many hawks, owls and vultures that would have benefitted from the new aviary, which replaces a smaller version built in the 1990s.

The center is currently treating four baby eagles, called eaglets, that will spend time in the new aviary when they are ready to learn to fly. One of the eaglets is from Skagit County, and the others from Island, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

West said those birds are just a few of the about 3,000 animals Sarvey treats each year from throughout the region. Already this year, about 150 of those animals have come from Skagit County.

Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island, which also cares for injured wildlife, including many critters from Skagit County, has a similar aviary.

Wolf Hollow Education Coordinator Shona Aitken said about a dozen eagles and other large birds use the aviary each year, and she’s glad Sarvey’s new structure will help ensure demand for rehabilitating injured birds will continue to be met.

“It is great to have large enclosures available to help get these bigger birds fit and give them the best chance of survival after release,” Aitken said.

Wolf Hollow’s aviary recently housed a rough-legged hawk that came to the center from Skagit County with a broken wing. After a few weeks of recovery, the hawk was released, Aitken said.

Aitken said younger birds, such as the eaglets in Sarvey’s care, may require several months of practice flying before they can be released.

Sarvey’s aviary was built with community donations and a $41,000 grant from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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