Birders and general tourists are flocking to Southern California's Orange County Zoo in the hope of glimpsing a wild bald eagle that has been paying daily visits to an area near the facility's eagle exhibit.
That's where Olivia, a 6-year-old female bald eagle, who has an eye injury and cannot fend for herself in the wild, is being cared for.
The two have been squawking to one another since the wild eagle first appeared on a nearby tree on Jan. 22. Since then the wild eagle has visited either in the morning or afternoon -- or both.
"It's rare for the zoo to have a bald eagle in the exhibit and a wild one outside," Donald Zeigler, manager of the small zoo, which is within Irvine Regional Park, told the Los Angeles Times.
Naturally, bird enthusiasts have been flocking to the zoo daily in the hope of catching a glimpse of the wild eagle, and to judge for themselves whether a bond might exist between these majestic, white-crowned birds of prey.
"He's been showing up in a tree 15 feet from the female eagle like a creature of habit," said Linda Jones, a wildlife photographer who has made several visits with her camera and long lens. "It's so cute. My guess is that there aren't any female eagles in this area."
Is the wild eagle courting Olivia or merely seeking similar company? Nobody knows for sure.
Said Orange County Parks spokeswoman Marisa O'Neil: "They've definitely been squawking back and forth, but who know what goes through an eagle's mind?"
So popular is this new attraction that OC Parks is holding a contest to name the wild eagle on its Facebook page, with the winner receiving an annual pass to the zoo.
-- Pete Thomas
Image of wild eagle courtesy of OC Parks