By Whisper, on April 27th, 2011
Though not an animist, when it comes to Bald Eagles I am prone to empathy.
The Bald Eagle embodies so many things that I love: family, freedom, flying, and America. It almost feels as if it is your patriotic duty to love these animals. Here in Hampton Roads, we have enjoyed a nest-eye view of a mating pair that call the Norfolk Botanical Gardens their home.
Bald Eagles typically mate for life, remaining monogamous and raising their chicks as a team. This pair had been together for almost ten years when the female was struck and killed yesterday morning by a US Airways regional flight from Philadelphia. The plane was configured for landing at Norfolk International when it struck the eagle with one of the landing gear main mounts. The female eagle was reportedly laden with a fish that she was taking back to the nest to feed her three recently hatched chicks. (Their nest in the botanical gardens is located immediately next to the airport.) Estimated to be fifteen years old, this was not her first aviation mishap. She lost her first mate, the one she built the nest with, to a similar fate in 2002. We’ve learned a lot from these noble animals, and continue to learn from tracking their offspring.
As an aviator, you never know when you’re manning-up for your last flight. And I don’t mean this is some philosophically fatalistic way. Leaving the ground is an unnatural privilege for humans, and you never know when that privilege may be taken away. Whether of your own accord, or by the unanticipated actions of an outside force, you will be forced one day to relinquish the controls.
Weasels may never live in fear of a jet intake, but they will die never having known the soul cleansing experience of soaring like an eagle.