Her name is FREEDOM. She is a glorious Bald eagle, and like the nation that has chosen her as its symbol, she is unique. While the average Bald eagle weighs between eight and eleven pounds, this lady weighed thirteen and a half, stood nearly two feet high, and has a wing span of six feet. When captured she was between four and five years old, but still not fully mature, as evidenced by the dark markings on her face and beak.
Despite her protected status she had been shot from the sky over Iowa in December 1980. As she floundered in deep snow, her wing shattered, she was discovered by the farmer who owned the field. He contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which arranged for the eagle to be flown to the University of Minnesota. There, at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, her wing was set and the healing process begun.
On February 6, 1981, her healing nearly completed, she was flown to Washington. There she appeared on stage at Constitution Hall, in a program honoring the returned Iran hostages. It was time for FREEDOMs release. She was taken back to a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. After only a moments hesitation she sprang upward, flying strong, leaving a memory of her majesty, dignity, and courage.
Ed Bierly met FREEDOM in Washington, D. C. and followed her to Minnesota to witness her release. His dramatic painting completed in 1981 captures that moment when her life was given back to her, and she soared away into the cloudy, chill February sky.