When I think about the fashion of my youth, I think of leg warmers, friendship pins, ribbon barrettes, perms, slouch socks with jelly shoes, jumpers, Swatch watches, and popped collars. When I think about how my parents dressed in the 80s, my quiet little mom always managed to look cute and trendy (and still does), while my outgoing dad was a little bit more of a statement-making guy. For example, he reguarly wore a bright orange T-shirt that said: “How can I fly like an eagle when I work for a bunch of turkeys?”—complete with a soaring eagle on the front. He wore that shirt until the eagle started cracking from being washed and worn so much. You’d think that shirt would have embarrassed me, but I thought it was the coolest shirt ever.
Ever since then, I’ve had nothing but respect for that bird.
Photo courtesy of Shane Rovang
And really, what’s not to like? Bald eagles represent freedom as our country’s national emblem, they are sacred in some Native American cultures, they can fly hundreds of miles a day, they’re at the top of the food chain, they mate for life, they can live up to 30 years, they’re ridiculously strong, they’re fun to watch—with all of their dramatic swooping and gliding, and they just look cool with their beady eyes (and perfect vision—they have to rely on their eyesight since they have no sense of smell), wicked talons, razor-sharp beak, and wing span of up to six feet long (!). Everything about them is larger than life (including their gigantic nests).
Plus, I still kind of think of them as being rare and special, even though they were removed from the Endangered Species list in 2007. I was happy to learn, though, that they will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, making it illegal for anyone to collect eagles and eagle parts, nests, or eggs without a permit.
This weekend (March 10-11), consider heading down to the beautiful city of Red Wing for Eagle Watch Weekend, where you can enjoy an up-close-and-personal eagle experience at the St. James Hotel for a small admission fee (the eagle is courtesy of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, which my friend Ellie blogged about here) or gather outside at Colvill Park along the Mississippi River from 1 to 3 p.m. and hope to spot one of these majestic birds soaring and dipping through the air, snatching fish, chasing other birds for their food, or simply perched high up in a tree branch. Don’t forget your binoculars and cameras.
I know eagles aren’t perfect (they sometimes get a bad rap for “not playing well with others”), but I’m so glad Benjamin Franklin didn’t have his way when suggesting that our national symbol should be the “more respectable” turkey.
“How can I gobble like a turkey when I work for a bunch of eagles?” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Photo courtesy of Shane Rovang
Before You Go: Eagle Etiquette (courtesy of The Eagle Institute)
When you head out to see eagles, keep in mind that human presence can stress the birds and cause them to waste precious energy that they need to survive. To avoid being disruptive, follow these basic tips:
• Stay in or near your vehicle at roadside viewing areas.
• Move quickly and quietly to observation blinds, where you will be safely hidden from the birds’ view.
• Avoid making loud noises, such as yelling, slamming car doors, and honking horns.
• Use binoculars or a spotting scope to view the birds from a comfortable distance.
• Never attempt to make an eagle fly.