Remembering Columbia:
Bald Eagle Ambassador

On December 31, 2001, Columbia was feeding on a dead deer by the side of the road when she was struck by a vehicle. Her right wing was broken near the shoulder and she was admitted to The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.

Upon examination, Columbia was found to have nearly twice the lethal dose of lead in her blood. Just a small amount could have killed her in 4-5 days. Thankfully, she recovered but the neurological damage from the lead in her system was irreversible.

Columbia’s lead exposure was on the high end making her recovery and subsequent 22-year lifespan (a full life by wild Bald Eagle standards) truly remarkable! Columbia touched countless lives and inspired guests for two decades, educating about the dangers of lead in the environment to eagles and wildlife.

In early January 2024, began to exhibit some unusual and concerning behavior that prompted our Avian Care to team take her for an unscheduled visit to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. It was discovered during that check-up that she had developed a condition known as Atherosclerosis, an incurable condition where thickened plaque mineralizes in the arteries making it difficult for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body. Her condition deteriorated quite rapidly and she was no longer able to stand up and had lost motor function. Not wanting to prolong any suffering, our team in consultation with her vets decided to humanly euthanize her.


  • Female
  • Hatched in 2001
  • Rescued near Dunbar, Wisconsin
  • Arrived at Center in 2003
  • Died in 2024

Ambassador Columbia’s legacy lives on, and her important education and advocacy for the removal of lead from the environment will continue in her memory. Unable to fly from very early in her life, she now soars high and free forever!

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