BUCKHANNON — June 20 is well known throughout West Virginia because it marks the day back in 1863 when the Mountain State finally became official.
West Virginia shares its birthday with the day the bald eagle became the national bird of the United States of America in 1782. To mark the occasion for both important birthdays, the West Virginia Wildlife Center partnered with the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center to celebrate.
Mike Book, the founder of the rehabilitation center, said they wanted to help recognize West Virginia Day and inform people about bald eagles.
“We were here to help the Wildlife Center celebrate West Virginia Day,” Book said. “These are birds that are in West Virginia, and today happens to be the birthday of the bald eagle being this nation’s bird.”
The wildlife center offered West Virginia birthday cake, cold drinks and a dunk tank. The paths circling the exhibits also featured educational stations such as animal print marking examples and a broad-winged hawk and screech owl, with members of the rehabilitation center answering questions. Jessica Valentine, who has worked at the rehabilitation center for four years, said getting to know the birds is a worthwhile experience.
“I know the birds really well,” Valentine said. “So I know their stories and I know their personalities and I like to see how they are getting better. A lot of birds get better, and it’s great to see them healthy, happy and fulfilled.”
Later in the day Book introduced their own bald eagle, named Speck, at the amphitheater.
Book said the most important part of his job is education.
“The problem is lack of education,” Book said. “National Geographic even did a program on bald head eagles, but they didn’t show and focus on any young bald eagles, so almost no one knows what a young bald head eagle looks like and they mistake it for a big brown bird.”
Book said this becomes a problem because people have been shooting bald eagles for years because of this mistake. Book also said he just wanted to let people know how the birds contribute to the West Virginia ecosystem.
The Wildlife Center’s next event takes place Aug. 5 and 6 with living history reenactments.