Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lessons from the Eagles

We learned two things at the National Eagle Center:

Eagles just came off the endangered species list this year.

Benjamin Franklin did not consider the eagle a worthy bird to have as a national symbol. (He felt warmer toward, of all birds, the turkey.)

Now you might be thinking: I knew both of those things! You didn't learn anything at the National Eagle Center! But what we learned was behind those two statements.

Eagles just came off the endangered species list this year. Those who are about my age or older might remember just why eagles were on the endangered species list in the first place. It was because of a chemical called DDT, commonly used to combat mosquitoes. However, as our guide graphically showed us, DDT had unintended consequences in other parts of the animal kingdom, up to and including eagles. He showed us how mosquitoes are connected to small fish, and small fish are connected to big fish, and big fish are connected to eagles, and how if one link in a chain is damaged, it affects the health of the whole chain. He told us one of the things that DDT did was make eagles' eggs soft and easily broken, so that most eaglets did not survive into adulthood. I didn't write down the numbers, but he said that at least 80% if all eaglets did not survive into adulthood, and eagles were in grave danger of becoming extinct.

He also told us that in 1972, something happened, when people banded together to outlaw DDT and to work to bring the bald eagle back from extinction. Now comes the statement that this year bald eagles came off the endangered species list. He told us that the story of the bald eagle can remind us and inspire us to remember what is possible when we work together for positive change.

Benjamin Franklin did not consider the bald eagle to be a worthy bird to have as a national symbol. There were three reasons for this, but I remember the third one the best. Franklin had observed eagles as they were attacked and dive-bombed by smaller birds like herons and gulls, and saw how the eagle would not engage in a fight, but simply fly away. He thought that the eagle was a coward, and not a fitting symbol for our young nation. However, as our guide told us, the eagle is not a coward, but is honorable in flying away from a fight with a bird clearly not its equal. So, I thought: if you know you are strong, you don't always have to fight.

Two lessons from eagles.

oh, and this piece of trivia: about how much do you think a fully grown bald eagle weighs?

about 10-12 pounds.
Picture is Harriet with handler last Saturday.

16 comments:

ROBERTA said...

very interesting! especially the part about an eagle not taking on a fight with a bird clearly not its equal. our nation could learn something from that!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

What Roberta said.

That's really moving.

Gannet Girl said...

I used to volunteer at our natural history museum, and somewhere around here is a picture of me holding a brand new eaglet, part of the Ohio Restoration Program in which eaglets were hatched in captivity and then hacked out to eagle parents in the wild. At that time -- 24 years ago, which I know because I am pregnant in the picture -- there were maybe 3 or 4 eagle nests in the entire state. Today they nest in every one of our 88 counties, with multiple sites in several counties.

Barbara B. said...

interesting stuff!!

FranIAm said...

Diane- I love this post. I did not know all that about eagles... glad that I do now!

Chorus said...

Great post, Diane... Very interesting and appropriate!!!

DogBlogger said...

Cool. Thanks for sharing.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

oh i like that...if you are strong, just walk away! ta-da!

Grandmère Mimi said...

So, I thought: if you know you are strong, you don't always have to fight.

Worthy words. If only our chest-thumping, bellicose president would take them to heart.

The National Eagle Center sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

aka The Swandive said...

what a wonderful post. thank YOU.

Border Explorer said...

Lesson #2 is profound. Exterior strength is only the first element. Strength must also lie within to empower one to walk away.
Thank you, Diane, for this post.

LutherPunk said...

This is really interesting...I recalled thinking that the turkey seemed an odd choice for a national bird until I hunted turkeys, and realized just how wily they can be. They may not be as majestic, but they are certainly smart birds.

LawAndGospel said...

Interesting lessons and turkeys, eagles and all of God's creation have unique and not always obvious gifts and strengths.

Lindy said...

Very interesting Diane. Thanks forposting this. There's so much to know about the world... is one lifetime enough?

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Yes, the last 10 years or so, I've seen eagles just looking out the window while I'm on the computer or out of the car window, in no special eagle place. They are on the upswing!

Ditto for the Canada goose, and I'm not sure that their numbers might be too high.

afeatheradrift said...

I knew both of the facts, but I sure had either not known why or had forgotten. So thanks for reminding or enlightening me. I do think it bares some more thought. The eagle is not a coward, but is perhaps smarter? We always run out to watch when we spot one flying around us. They love to fish in the river a couple of miles away. We see them sometimes walking on the ice in the winter.