Fly - and nest - like an eagle at new Northwest Trek bald eagle exhibit

Wildlife fans with a strong nesting instinct can now know what it’s like to be a baby bird.

Eagle Passage, a new walk-through exhibit populated with live eagles, opened Saturday at Northwest Trek near Eatonville. And yes, it has a human-sized nest.

Bald eagles, the majestic white-headed bird of prey and national symbol, were almost driven to extinction in the mid-20th century.

Their comeback — they are no longer listed as an endangered or threatened species — is a celebration that humans can share with the birds themselves.

Sucia, Salish, Cheveyo and youngster Sequoia are the feathered stars of the exhibit.

The eagles in the exhibit are retired from the natural world. Injuries they sustained would not allow them to survive in the wild. Some of them were cared for at other zoos until their new home was ready.

“We are opening one of the most exciting, interactive animal habitats in the history of Northwest Trek and showcasing America’s symbol — the bald eagle — in a breathtaking way,” said Aaron Pointer, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners, in a news release.

The walk-through and open-air exhibit takes visitors through a forested understory of native Northwest plants. The eagles are separated from people by a protective mesh.

A life-sized graphic of a bald eagle’s wingspan makes a good selfie backdrop.

A kiosk tells the story of how eagles were on the brink of extinction with only 417 nesting pairs observed in 1963. After the pesticide DDT was banned and other protections were put in place the birds now have around 12,000 nesting pairs.

“Bald eagles – and this habitat – show that together, our voices and actions can make a difference,” said Northwest Trek Education Curator Jessica Moore.

The exhibit’s $500,000 cost was raised by the non-profit Northwest Trek Foundation.

The wildlife park is open 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily through Labor Day.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.