He's a wild bald eagle, untamed and free, able to soar to just about anywhere he wishes -- but the call to take to the open skies is apparently no match for the alluring charms of a lady. For over a week now, the rare bird has been spotted perched in a tree overlooking the enclosure of a 6-year-old female bald eagle named Olivia, a resident of the Orange County Zoo in California. The unlikely pair have evidently grown quite fond of one another, say witnesses, one of whom neatly summed-up the budding bird relationship: "It's kind of a romance story, isn't it?"According to estimates, there are only a few hundred bald eagles left in the wild in California, which can make finding a mate difficult for members of the endangered species. Observers suspect that this wild bird is a male who has taken to Olivia because there may be no other females available in the region.
"The wild bald eagle has been coming in about a week and a half now, coming in the mornings, the afternoons, landing next to this eagle exhibit and vocalizing back and forth with our female bird," zoo manager Donald Zeigler told the local ABC News affiliate.
Unfortunately for this charming pair, their romance may be short-lived. Olivia is being kept at the zoo because of injuries she suffered in the wild and she "is not going to be able to survive out on her own," says Zeigler.
The wild male's apparent infatuation with the zoo's female eagle has been met with excitement from the local bird-watching community, spurred on by this enticing video recently posted by the facility. The love-story aside, however, such a rare sight would otherwise be enough to attract attention. A report from The Los Angeles Times explains part of what makes the untamed suitor so intriguing:
Many of the bald eagles spotted in Southern California have a wing tag indicating that they were released as part of a restoration program on the Channel Islands. The eagle at the Orange County Zoo has no such tag, however.
One explanation for the eagle's visit is that the zoo lies close to an abundant food source: Santiago Creek. Full of water from recent rains, the creek is teeming with fish and has attracted other winged hunters such as white-tailed kite and osprey.
For Linda Jones, a wildlife photographer who has ventured to the zoo for a chance to see the literal lovebirds in action, part of what makes the pairing so special is the fact that it's ultimately unattainable.
"We know this is so rare and how hard it is to find wildlife, especially here," she says. "You know he's going to realize she's in a cage and leave soon. So you know it's going to end."
There's no telling how long it will take before the apparently love-struck wild eagle catches on that the object of his infatuation can't join him in the open world, but hopefully this impossible partnering won't deter him from finding a more eligible mate with whom to help repopulate the sparsely-numbered species.
Until then, however, his frequent visits outside the zoo are doing wonders to raise awareness of the challenges facing these majestic birds -- while serving as a reminder that the enduring influence of affection aren't felt by humans alone. In fact, most of us could probably learn a thing or two about romance from these bald eagles who have so far refused to let their differences get in the way of a good thing.