Dave reminisces on the days his best friend, Phoenix, was still alive.
“There would be times that I would be holding him in a program and he’d be rubbing his head on me, he’d just cuddle me and tolerate me,” Dave said.
Phoenix was a Golden Eagle, and he and Dave had been friends for 38 years. Just last month, he passed away after doctors found out his kidneys were failing.
“He wasn’t going to be around long so it’s one of those time that just tears your heart out to make that call,” Dave said.
Someone in Brookings had found Phoenix and called Wildlife Images to rescue him. Dave says the bird wasn’t in good condition when they found him, and almost lost his life multiple times.
“He would rally and then he’d crash and he’d rally and he’d crash,” Dave recalls. “He kind of rose from the ashes like the Phoenix.”
That’s how Phoenix the Eagle, got his name. Dave kept the bird at the rehabilitation center for a few months while they nursed him back to health.
When it came time to release him back into the wild, Phoenix had human imprinted and was deemed non releasable. After that, Dave and him became partners in crime.
“He was just the whole package, he was just the perfect bird,” Dave said “He and I had a trust that we built over 38 years together.”
The two did thousands of educational programs together at the Oregon Zoo, Wildlife Images and even travelling across the world together. Phoenix was even apart of the John Denver specials as well as the Mountain Family Robinson movie.
“Thousands and thousands and thousands or people got buzzed by phoenix, my golden eagle,” Dave said proudly.
Phoenix’s encounter has been empty since he passed away until now. Ms. Jefferson, who Dave says has a bit of an attitude problem, is now living in what used to be Phoenix’s home.
“There’s no other bird that will take his place, I mean the history, he was one of these remarkable birds that was one in a thousand, one in ten thousand …” Dave said.
The longest living eagle is a Bald Eagle that lived for 68 years. Dave tells us Phoenix nearly doubled his lifetime living at Wildlife Images than he would have in the wild.
Blakely McHugh is a weather forecaster and reporter for NBC5 News. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Blakely is a native of San Diego, CA.
Blakely is excited to be in southern Oregon, a place that gets all the seasons and has similar temperatures to Arizona in the summer! When she’s not at work, you can find her relaxing at home watching TV and cuddling with her cat, Dallas. She also enjoys trying new places to eat and exploring the outdoors.
Blakely loves meeting new people so if you see her out and about, say “Hi!”