The Wild Files: It’s our Nature
By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
September 30 marks the second annual Truth and Reconciliation Day. The eagle feather, seen on the bright orange Every Child Matters flag, recognizes and honours all the children who were forced into residential schools. There are two types of eagles that can be seen flying over the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis peoples in British Columbia: the golden eagle and the bald eagle.
One can distinguish the two quite easily simply by the appearance of their heads and tails. The golden eagle has a brown head and tail, while the bald eagle’s head and tail are bright white. Fun fact: The word ‘bald’ has nothing to do with any of them losing feathers but is derived from an Old English word ‘piebald’, which means white patch and refers to their head, which is a bright white.
The bald eagle’s future is bright once again after a scare of extinction due to DDT poisoning in the mid-twentieth century.
Both females and males in this esteemed species are referred to as eagles, while their young are called fledglings or eaglets. Females are the bigger birds and can weigh up to 6.8 kilograms (kg) while the males come in a little smaller at 4 kg. When a group of eagles fly together, they are most known as a soar or a convocation of eagles. Less commonly, they are referred to as an aerie, which is also the name for an eagle’s nest.
Out of all birds of prey, eagles are known for building the largest nests in the world. Both bald and golden eagles’ wingspan is 1.8 to 2.3 metres. They can live anywhere from 20 to 30 years in the wild, although there are some on record who have lived up to 50 years in captivity. As these stunning creatures soar and dive through the air, they can reach speeds of 120 to 160 km per hour.
A lone eagle is a creature of beauty. Two in mating season are beautiful to watch. The male and female tempt fate with their foreplay and truly ‘fall’ into love as they lock talons and cartwheel in a freefall downward before releasing sometimes not far off the ground. They mate for life and while the gestation period can range from 34- 36 days an eagle will incubate her young for up to 40 days. A mother eagle will lay one to three eggs in her clutch. Having a mixed diet, the bald eagle seeks out fish and aquatic birds and small mammals such as rabbits to eat, but – when beggars can’t be choosers – they are known to eat any kind of food they can get their talons on.
Studies from scientists at an environmental education non-profit in Colorado called HawkQuest, stated the gripping strength of a bald eagle’s talon is ten times stronger than that of a human hand and can lift 400 pounds per square inch. Small dogs have been known to be taken for a joyride before being eventually released. Eagles’ strength does not only lay in their grip but also having strong vision and parenting skills as the mother nurtures her young.
These empowering, majestic creatures have been a symbol of beauty, honour, dignity and grace. In Indigenous cultures the eagle is known as the bravest, strongest, and the holiest of all the birds, with the closest relationship to the creator as it soars to great heights. This master of the skies is known for its tenacity. If given an eagle feather in Indigenous cultures, it is received with great honour and worn with great pride.