“You Could Move Over” and other things eagles say

eagle flying

I saw two eagles swooping overhead. I often see them on my walks. One of them began to circle lower and lower, towards an island on the Mississippi River. The trees had lost many of their leaves, so I could clearly see the bird’s precarious path through a spiderweb of branches until they landed near the top of a tree. I’m sure these flights and touch downs are nothing special to the eagles, but I hold my breath and everything around me disappears while I take in their flight. 

The second eagle spots where its mate has landed and aims toward the branch—a branch that is not very long, nor very thick. Stretching out their talons as they approached, they stopped flapping their wings, and then hovered like a helicopter, suspended by air and wing span and magic. 

When the eagle was almost to the branch, I expected some sort of final wing adjustment, but instead it looked as though the bird’s whole body vibrated before they landed next to their mate. Perhaps the vibration came from a slight change in tail angle or wing flap, the way planes adjust their parts when they land. The only word I could come up for this skillful navigation was wowness.

Once landed, the two eagles began chattering to each other. I imagined the conversation went something like this: 

“You could have moved over a little, you know, or picked a bigger branch!” she said.

“Well, why did you come in like that?” he said.

“You didn’t leave me many options,” she said.

“Well, if you weren’t so busy admiring your talons and doing that loopy de loop before you came in, it wouldn’t have been so difficult for you.” he said. 

You know, the usual spousal stuff….

Eagle by Mississippi River

For several days, I only saw one eagle, and I trudged along feeling low. My walks along the river usually revive me, but not when I’m worried about the wildlife. I thought about changing my route to somewhere I didn’t know the animals or their patterns.

It made me realize how much I depend on at least some things in my life not changing—like these two eagles that I see on almost every walk, and the three female turkeys that pass by my office window, and this one goofy squirrel who shows up almost every day to stand on his haunches, with a big acorn clenched in his teeth, and stare me down as I sit at my desk staring back. In a world where so much is changing so fast, and we don’t know where it’s taking us, and it all seems out of our control, I love these bits of nature that keep showing up in my life.

When I finally saw the eagle pair together again, sitting in a tree, I thanked the world out loud, as I do, for those moments when things are so right.  

Two eagles in a tree

Bald Eagle Facts

  • A male eagle weighs about 10 pounds, a female about 12 pounds. Their wingspan averages 6.75 ft.
  • They live around 30 years in the wild and can live up to 50 years in captivity.
  • They mate for life, but if one eagle dies, the other will seek another mate.
  • Eagles will sometimes gather into a large group called a convocation (not as much fun as a murder of crows).
  • The eagle’s main diet is dead or dying fish. They will also take advantage of road kill. Eagles can only lift 4 to 5 pounds. (Latte lets out a sigh of relief.) If a fish is too heavy to carry, the eagle will tow it to shore, rowing with their wings. 
  • Eagles can take off from the surface of the water as long as they don’t let their wings get too drenched.

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