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Maryland Zoo in Baltimore to debut first bald eagle in a decade

Will it be Scout? Sioux? Vega?

The first bald eagle to land at Baltimore's zoo in a decade is finishing a mandatory quarantine and preparing to meet visitors for the first time later this month. But first, the female bald eagle needs a name.

Zoo keepers at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore have come up with five possibilities and want the public's help picking one through an online poll.

The eagle, which came from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, currently has just a species name Haliaeetus leucocephalus, which in Latin means "sea eagle with white head." She needs something a bit zippier, zoo officials say.

They've come up with several options: Scout, (for the Eagle Scouts) Sioux (to honor Native Americans), Migisi (Chippewa for eagle), Annie (for Annie Oakley) and Vega, (a summer star once known as the "Swooping Eagle.")

"Generally, if an animal is moving from one zoo to another, they might already come with a name," said Jane Ballentine, a zoo spokeswoman. "For some reason this eagle did not."

The zoo in Druid Hill Park, one of the oldest in the U.S., last had eagles on display in 2004, when the Main Valley section was closed to the public for use in holding and breeding. An eagle remained there, but not on display, until 2007, said Jen Kottyan, the zoo's avian collection and conservation manager.

The zoo's newest resident, joining more than 1,500 animals, was found emaciated on the side of a road in North Carolina in June 2009. The Carolina Raptor Center nursed her back to health over four months and released her, but recovered her again two days later with a wing injury. She was deemed nonreleasable.

"We are very excited to have this species at the zoo again, which will give us the opportunity to generate awareness on conservation of these beautiful birds," Kottyan said.

Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007 but still are federally protected and face challenges in the wild, Kottyan said.

The bird is about 5 years old, Kottyan said, too young to have developed the completely white head that distinguishes the bald eagle from other large birds. She has been quarantined for about a week, which is the protocol for animals moving from one zoo to another. During a typically 30-day period, staff observe animals as they become acclimated to the new environment.

Zoo officials hope she's given a clean bill of health by late July.

"She's doing really, really well," Kottyan said. "She's adjusted well. She's eating great, and we haven't seen any health problems at all. She is very calm, which is great for us."

Voting for the eagle's name started Friday and will continue through July 14. The zoo will announce the winning name when the eagle makes her debut.

The zoo has held naming contests in the past, including for the first elephant born at the zoo in March 2008, and for lion cubs born last October.

In the African elephant naming contest, the zoo received 700 suggested names, which were winnowed to 10. A panel of judges narrowed it to five, and the public chose Samson. After the lion cubs were born, the zoo had its keepers select names to put to a public vote. In December, voters chose Luke and Leia with more than 20,000 votes.

To cast a vote, go to marylandzoo.org/eaglename.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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