Ea­gle at ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter turns 37

Cel­e­bra­tion held for Tayac, in­jured 27 years ago

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

The Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter cel­e­brated an im­por­tant birth­day Satur­day, although the guest of honor was happy just to get his fish.

Tayac, a 37-year-old bald ea­gle, is the old­est feath­ered in­hab­i­tant of the en­vi­ron­men­tal cen­ter, hav­ing lived there for more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury.

Tayac hatched along the shore of the Po­tomac River in 1979, one of only four or five bald ea­gles born that year in Charles County to hatch and leave the nest. The pop­u­la­tion had been dec­i­mated by the use of the pes­ti­cide

DDT, or dichlorodiphenyl­trichloroethane, which built up in the rap­tors’ sys­tems lead­ing to fa­tally thinned or nonex­is­tent egg shells, lead­ing to bald ea­gles be­com­ing an en­dan­gered species, Mike Cal­la­han, cen­ter nat­u­ral­ist, said.

“It did its job at the time, which was to kill bugs, but it also stayed in the tis­sues of the prey, which … builds up the higher you go in the food chain,” Cal­la­han said.

DDT was banned in the 1972 but at that time, the bald ea­gle, sym­bol of the United States, was nearly ex­tinct in the re­gion sur­round­ing the na­tion’s capi­tol.

Tayac, like the other hatch­lings born at that time, was given an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion band, which was how he was iden­ti­fied when he was found in 1989.

Tayac had been shot and was found on Billings­ley Road, Cal­la­han said. He was sent to a wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in Vir­ginia. The bones in his right wing had been shat­tered, how­ever, and Tayac would never again soar with other ea­gles.

He was re­turned to Charles County and has lived at the ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter for 27 years, educating gen­er­a­tions of Charles County chil­dren about rap­tors.

The old­est known wild bald ea­gle was re­cently dis­cov­ered to have lived to the age of 38, and so it is un­known how long Tayac’s life­span in cap­tiv­ity may be, but 37 is a long life­span by bald ea­gle stan­dards, Cal­la­han said.

Ap­prox­i­mately 40 peo­ple at­tended the hatch­day cel­e­bra­tion and open house at Nan­je­moy, and a rap­tor demon­stra­tion was held with the ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter’s younger avians, in­clud­ing a four-and-a-half year old bald ea­gle who is blind in its left eye.

All of the birds have per­ma­nent in­juries or dis­abil­i­ties that would pre­vent them from sur­viv­ing long in the wild, Cal­la­han said.

The fes­tiv­i­ties also in­cluded hik­ing, bird watch­ing, a walk­ing trail scav­enger hunt and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

NCEEC is an ed­u­ca­tional site within Charles County Public Schools, used for out­door en­vi­ron­men­tal field trips, par­tic­u­larly for fifth grade stu­dents, and other en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The guest of honor was non­plussed by the at­ten­tion and the cake, but he did re­ceive a spe­cial fish for his “hatch­day” cel­e­bra­tion.

Tayac is a Pis­cat­away word for high chief­tain, and the bald ea­gle was named in honor of Turkey Tayac, Pis­cat­away In­dian Na­tion and Tayac Ter­ri­tory chief­tain of South­ern Mary­land who was a promi­nent fig­ure in the Na­tive Amer­i­can rights move­ment of the 1960s and 1970s.

His son, Billy Red­wing Tayac, the cur­rent chief­tain of the Pis­cat­away In­dian Na­tion and Tayac Ter­ri­tory, was on-hand for the cel­e­bra­tion of the bald ea­gle’s hatch­ing day.

“We’re ex­tremely hon­ored to have this ea­gle named af­ter us,” Billy Red­wing Tayac said.

He said the bald ea­gle is viewed as sa­cred by his peo­ple.

“The rea­son why they’re sa­cred is the birds fly very high, their feath­ers touch heaven. This was be­fore there was such a thing as air­planes. The ea­gle of course flew high­est, and that’s the rea­son why, if some­body did some­thing very brave, we don’t re­ward them a medal, we re­ward them an ea­gle feather,” he said. “It’s the high­est honor.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Tayac is greeted by well-wish­ers out­side his en­clo­sure at the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter Satur­day. Tayac turns 37 this year, and has been at the cen­ter for 27 years af­ter be­ing shot near Billings­ley Road.

STAFF PHOTOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Tayac the bald ea­gle in his en­clo­sure at the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter Satur­day. Tayac turns 37 this year, and has been at the cen­ter for 27 years af­ter be­ing shot near Billings­ley Road.

Pis­cat­away Chief Billy Red­wing Tayac speaks at the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter Satur­day in recog­ni­tion of the 37th “hatch­day” of Tayac the bald ea­gle. The bald ea­gle was named in honor of Billy Red­wing Tayac’s fa­ther, Turkey Tayac, a renowned Na­tive Amer­i­can rights leader.

Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter nat­u­ral­ist Mike Cal­la­han holds a four-and-a-half year old bald ea­gle dur­ing a rap­tor demon­stra­tion. The cen­ter held a “hatch­day” cel­e­bra­tion for another bald ea­gle in­hab­i­tant, Tayac, who turned 37 years old.

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