Bald eagles, associated with power, freedom, and strength, are among the world’s largest and most majestic birds of prey. Just last week, I had the pleasure of observing one circle in the sky and suddenly dive down with amazing speed and accuracy to grip a sizable salmon in its powerful talons. Then the eagle soared off into the evening sky, fading into the mountain scenery, prey tight in its grasp. I’m certain it was in search of the perfect dining spot to devour its fresh catch. As the eagle vanished into the horizon, I stood mesmerized at the lake’s edge, completely astounded by what I had witnessed. I was enthralled by his keen ability to spot the salmon from such an extensive distance. I was equally fascinated by his ability to swoop down vertically with such tremendous speed and masterfully drop his feet into the water to capture its prey. It was the ultimate culmination of grace, instinct, intelligence, physical talent, and God’s handiwork. This “wow” moment stirred me, and caused me to do a little research to discover some remarkable tidbits about eagles:
• Eagles are masters at soaring. Since they are often forced to travel in search of food sources, rather than flap their wings, they are adept at riding upon vertically spiraling columns of warm air known as thermals. This enables eagles to travel up to twenty miles per hour without expending too much energy and tiring out.
• These amazing creatures use monocular and binocular vision. This allows them to use their eyes independently or together. Eagles’ eyes have two focal points; one which looks forward and the other to the side at about a 45-degree angle. This gives them the unique ability to see straight ahead and to the side simultaneously. And they can see four to five times farther than the average human eye can.
• Eagles are generally diurnal predators. This means that they mainly hunt during the day and have periods of rest in the evening. If its nest is destroyed, the eagle may become disoriented, and this may interfere with the eagle’s wake and sleep cycle. Most eagles rise with the sun and are mainly active in the daytime.
• Fish is the primary food of bald eagles, but they have been known to eat a variety of other small animals, including birds. They may steal food from other animals, including other eagles and smaller birds, and scavenge on carrion. They do not necessarily need to feed every day. They can gorge on food when its available to tide them over on days when food is scarcer.
• Bald eagles, both males and females, are easily identifiable by their white heads; however, it can be tougher to identify immature bald eagles in the wild as their heads and tails will generally stay dark for up to the first five years. Among differences between the male and female adult birds is size. Overall, female bald eagles are 25% larger than males.
Lucky for us, there are many ways to increase our knowledge on wildlife, whether directly witnessing a bird in action, or by doing research from the comfort of our homes. Nature study resources, from computer educational talks to books, TV, and films, can journey us to faraway places we may someday hope to explore, such as Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands. While computerized “year-round” access to information helps us expand our knowledge, there is truly nothing better than having a front row seat in nature. Being amidst a peaceful landscape while taking in the sights and sounds and splendor of a bald eagle in flight is a cathartic experience. Witnessing nature firsthand is perhaps the best way to celebrate the glory and richness of our earth, the only true life-sustaining planet, and appreciate God’s creatures in their natural habitat, whether on land, sea, or in the air.
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