The center's trainers are getting him ready to meet his fans at this weekend's Riverfest.
It's been a long journey for Buddy the bald eagle, from hatching on the eagle cam in Norfolk to an intensive surgery to remove a lesion on his beak in 2008. Now, Buddy's taking his show on the road.
Trainer Raina Krasner commands Buddy, who comes with a bit of a big ego. After all, he hatched live for the world to watch on the eagle cam.
"He's just very charismatic," Krasner said.
Krasner started training the famous Buddy in late February at the wildlife center.
"We get him up on the glove. We introduce him to lots of different stimuli every day," Krasner said.
That involves a lot of walking and some falls.
"Now he's able to pull himself back up on the glove. That's called recovering," Krasner said.
Sometimes Buddy just chills on a perch in Krasner's office.
"Just introducing him to lots of different things so he's not surprised by things when he encounters them out doing education programs," Krasner said.
Buddy underwent hours of surgery in 2008 to remove an avian pox lesion that permanently bent his beak. He still requires beak shavings every five to six weeks.
"If we didn't do that, the beak would continue to grow and he wouldn't be able to pick up his food, tear it apart like they need to do," said David McRuer, the wildlife center's director of veterinary services.
Now, the healthy eagle makes his public debut in the Shenandoah Valley Saturday at Waynesboro's Riverfest. The date's even more special as buddy begins his new life.
"We figured what better way to have him spend his fifth birthday than out there teaching the world with us?" said Amanda Nicholson, on Riverfest's board of directors.
For Krasner, Buddy's fame is helping bring back the bald eagle.
"They're not only our national symbol, but they're a symbol for wildlife conservation. They made a huge comeback not only in the United States, but specifically here in Virginia," Krasner said.
Buddy will debut at Riverfest at 3:30 Saturday afternoon in Constitution Park. You can continue to track Buddy's progress online, here.
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