Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Resident bald eagle at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg dies

Free Spirit, 27, has been a fixture at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg since 2001. She broke her leg Feb. 9, then went downhill, said a Boyd Hill volunteer.

Special to the Times

Free Spirit, 27, has been a fixture at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg since 2001. She broke her leg Feb. 9, then went downhill, said a Boyd Hill volunteer.

ST. PETERSBURG — "Free Spirit" wasn't your typical bird.

She was big, almost 13 pounds.

She was engaging and sassy, making sure to leave a mound of feathers behind after eating her favorite meal (quail).

She couldn't fly very well, but her wingspan — nearly 7 feet — was still impressive.

And whenever someone got close, she greeted whoever it was with her special squeaky call.

"She was just one of a kind," said Gabe Vargo, 68, a senior volunteer at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

Spirit, as she was called, an American bald eagle who was a longtime fixture at the preserve, died about 1:30 p.m. Saturday. She was 27 years old.

Officials and volunteers aren't sure what caused her death.

They found her unresponsive in her cage a few days ago. She had broken her leg about two weeks before that.

"It was very sudden," said veterinarian Janine Cianciolo. "Everything was going so well. Whatever went wrong looks like it didn't have to do with the leg."

Spirit had been in captivity for most of her life. When she was 4, a rattlesnake bit her wing. Because of the venom, she lost the tip.

A center in Maitland rehabilitated her, and for the next 12 to 14 years she lived at Sunken Gardens. Then in 2001, she was moved to Boyd Hill.

Because Spirit was already considered middle-aged at the time, volunteers didn't want to put her through the stress of training.

So she remained as an educational display bird, greeting the public from her enclosure. "She was very outgoing," Vargo said.

On Feb. 9, Spirit's toe got caught in her perch. She fell over, breaking her leg. Surgery followed, and eventually she was sent back to the preserve to heal.

But on Thursday, volunteers found her unresponsive.

At 4 a.m. Saturday, she had a mild seizure.

"She just continued to go downhill," Vargo said.

Spirit's absence was immediately noticed at the preserve, Vargo said. Everyone wanted to know what happened and when she would be back.

Volunteers plan to put up a notice letting people know of her death, Vargo said.

Reach Kameel Stanley at or (727) 893-8643.

Resident bald eagle at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg dies 02/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 27, 2010 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Romano: On this education bill, you decide who is evil


    The political ramifications are not lost on Kristine Benson.

    Six-year-old Chase Benson was born with down syndrome and autism. He attends a private school in Palm Harbor through a Gardiner Scholarship. [Photo courtesy of Kris Benson]
  2. St. Petersburg police team with federal agencies to crack down on gun and drug offenders (w/video)


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police say Raymond Adams, 29, jumped a fence to break into a home in the 800 block of 51st Street Avenue S.

    Some of the guns confiscated during an eight month firearms, drug trafficking, and violent crime operation dubbed the St. Petersburg Violent Crime Reduction Initiative were on display Wednesday, 5/24/17 at the St. Petersburg Police Department.  Federal charges have been filed against 35 individuals and state charges have been filled against 9 individuals in St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  3. Graco recalls car seats; webbing may not hold child in crash

    Public Safety

    Graco Children's Products is recalling more than 25,000 car seats because the harness webbing can break in a crash and may not keep children restrained.

    Graco has recalled eight different car seat models.
  4. Pro Bowl returning to Orlando in 2018


    ORLANDO — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando in 2018 for the second straight year.

    Bucs  wide receiver Mike Evans runs a route as Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. defends during the first quarter of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Plan your weekend: Memorial Day, Sunset Music Fest, comic Pablo Francisco, sci-fi writer Jeff VanderMeer


    Plan your weekend


    Memorial Day: Monday is the day to honor those who died serving their country, and the Bay Pines VA Memorial Day Ceremony will have Fox 13 anchor Alcides Segui as emcee, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and musical performances starting at 10 a.m. at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. …

    GULF SHORES, AL - MAY 20:  Diplo of Major Lazer performs at the Surf Stage during 2017 Hangout Music Festival on May 20, 2017 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Hangout Music Festival) 700050769