Two of Rebecca Oulton’s best friends are Noah and Reggie. They are professionals who look to her for advice, support and care.
The fact that they are bald eagles, one of the most majestic animals and the national bird of the U.S., makes the relationship pretty unique. As ambassador birds for the Superbowl LVII-bound Philadelphia Eagles, Noah and Reggie attend Eagles home games to serve as the team’s live mascot. Noah, who has one eye, began his mascot career in October 2014, and Reggie, who had part of his wing removed, joined him in 2019.
After Oulton graduated from Immaculata University in 2015 with a degree in biology, she began working as an educator at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In her role, Oulton works with the Zoo’s birds of prey and oversees the care of the animals in the ambassador program, which includes eagles Noah and Reggie, and various other birds, reptiles, and mammals that the Zoo uses for educational purposes.
“Everyone is always in awe of the eagles,” she said. Recently, Oulton and staff from the Zoo attended a Philadelphia Eagles meet and greet at a local mall with Eagles quarterback, Jalen Hurts.
“He came over during his break and saw Noah. And just like anybody, he was just in awe of the birds,” Oulton shared.
The Elmwood Park Zoo is also the home of one of the original ambassadors, Stella, a Great-horned owl who serves as the one and only live mascot for Temple University.
In addition to overseeing animals in the ambassador program, Oulton serves as a conservationist and educator. When attending Philadelphia Eagles’ games, Oulton and one of the live eagles arrive at Lincoln Financial Field about three hours before kickoff. She sets up a perch area in the stadium so people can view the birds, and she shares with fans details of the bird’s background and characteristics.
This season was the first time that Oulton and Reggie went onto the field for the National Anthem. It took years for her to build up Noah’s comfort level with on-the-field appearances due to noise and activity levels.
According to Oulton, since there are always new experiences with such high-profile events, it is important to get Noah and Reggie out into the community and keep them exposed to different things so that they are more prepared for the chaos that can occur at a sporting event.
“When they get out to an Eagles’ event, there is so much that is out of our control,” states Oulton. “If something scary happens, hopefully it’s something that they’ve seen before. Our relationship is strong enough that if something new pops up, I am helping them work through it and they are relying on me to make sure everything is okay.”
Oulton has been working with the eagles for nearly six years, and she understand that with their average wingspan of six to seven feet, they have the potential to be dangerous. And, just like humans, they all have different personalities and quirks.
“It can be scary to have an eagle so close to your body, especially when they’re having an off day,” she said. But this is exactly the type of career Oulton wanted when she arrived as a freshman at Immaculata. She relied on the advice, support and care of the faculty and staff, and just like her eagles, she thrived under their guidance.
“It is not surprising that Rebecca’s chosen career path involves caring for animals. When she was a student, she helped with the upkeep of the Biology Zoo that had been located on Immaculata’s campus,” states Jean Shingle, Ph.D., who was one of Oulton’s professors and is the dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “She was bright, articulate and determined yet compassionate and warm. We are so proud that she is continuing to follow her passions of working with animals.”