Jeff Green | Jul 26, 2007
Back toHomeNatureReflections - July 22, 2007
The Bald Eagle
Nature Reflections by Jean Griffin
What adjective comes to your mind when you see a Bald Eagle? For me it triggers a host of different ones - for a variety of reasons.
Magnificent! What a striking-looking bird with its white head and tail, its size, and mastery of the air.
Maligned. So often in the past it has been the victim of shooting; combine this with the loss of habitat and chemical contaminants which caused eggshells to be so thin they were broken even by the parents as they tried to incubate them. In 1963 in the mainland 48 states, there were only 417 mated pairs counted. Fortunately both the U.S. and Canada recognized the dangers of DDT and banned it in the early seventies, and with other protections now it is believed there are close to 10,000 mated pairs in the 48 states. Here in Canada, it was listed as endangered in Ontario, also in 1973. Now doing well nationally, it is still listed as endangered in southern Ontario (almost extirpated in the early 1980s, there were 34 known active nests in 2006) and a species of Special Concern in northern Ontario. It is time to stop maligning wildlife and protect it.
Powerful. Flying low over my house one day years ago, I could hear the wings beating the air as they carried the bird rapidly on its way. Look at the hooked beak and the strong talons and it is easy to imagine its prey being killed and torn apart.
Tender. That same powerful beak is gentle and tender as the prey that has been brought to a nest is torn into small pieces and fed to its young.
Menacing. The same talons and beak make the bird look menacing when seen up close. The baleful stare of those cold-looking yellow eyes can lead to the same reaction.
Pitiful. An adult individual which had been injured so that it could no longer fly, sitting on a branch in a large outdoor aviary is indeed a pitiful sight - like the one I saw in Newfoundland. Pitiful, yes, but also fortunate to be in that aviary where it would be fed and tended.
Opportunistic. Both adults and immatures have learned that food can be easily procured near a chicken-processing plant (Nova Scotia), outside farmed-salmon-processing plants (New Brunswick), and at rivers where salmon migrate in B.C., and many gather in numbers waiting for the opportunity to feed.
Persistent. Seeing an eagle swooping down at a lone duck on a lake is an education. The duck dives to get away, but when it surfaces, there is another threatening swoop. The eagle is persistent and when the duck becomes too tired to continue its attempt to escape, there is a meal for the large bird or its eaglets.
Piratical. I have memories of seeing an event many times near the river by my home in New Brunswick. An Osprey would be out hunting for the chance to catch a fish, and would dive and rise with one in its talons. Waiting in the wings, so to speak, the Bald Eagle would quickly chase the Osprey and start to threaten it from above. The hapless Osprey, calling mournfully, would attempt to elude the larger bird, but would eventually be forced to drop the fish. Quickly the eagle would swoop below the Osprey, and fly away with the prize. The Osprey wouldnecessarily have toresume its hunt if it wanted to feed its young or itself.