By Dan Kirk
The feeling of an eagle is the feeling of power. Spiritually, this is true for me, though on June 20, 1782, an eagle also became the emblem of the United States of America. So, the eagle is also tied to authority, governmental power and “freedom”. What a dishonor to these raptors who have been glorified to symbolize capitalism, the very thing that threatens their livelihood. This is, of course, the bald eagle. The big bird with a pure white head. My guess is that most people would say that the bald eagle is the largest raptor in the U.S. This is only arguably true, as some other raptors may weigh slightly less but have longer wingspans, or have shorter tails but weigh more. One example is the golden eagle, or Aquila chrysaetos. The golden eagle just so happens to also be the national emblem for not just one country, but five: Albania, Germany, Austria, Mexico, and Kazakhstan. The golden eagle also is uniquely distinct to Alameda County, here in the Bay Area, as it is home to the largest nesting populations in the world. In the Bay Area, we see this translated pretty well, with institutions like The Golden Eagle Hotel, Golden Eagle (general contractor), Golden Eagle (restaurant), Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, Golden Eagle Estates, Golden Eagle Insurance and Golden Eagle Market.
That all being said, I am not sure if I’ve ever seen a golden eagle before, and I do live in Oakland and do love to roam the hills. For my own sake and yours, let’s review the characteristics of this eagle: They are mostly a darker brown, with patches of lighter “golden” brown on the back and wingspan, and their wingspan is between 6 and 8 feet long, which is very long, but not so different than the length of a red-tailed hawk or turkey vulture wingspan. It could be that you or I see one diving for prey, which they apparently do at speeds up to 200mph, which is extremely fast and a more easily defining characteristic. But bird watching is very nuanced, and you can’t always rely on the characteristic that stands out the most. Bird watching is like knowing the difference between a knockoff Louis Vitton purse and a real one, it’s like tasting the difference between your grandmother’s soup and your grandmother’s soup recipe, it’s patience, and in the case of an eagle, it might also just be a feeling of humility – a virtue to see an eagle nearby.
Because the bald eagle and the golden eagle represent such power in terms of national pride and market value, people have definitely hunted them to the point of making them an endangered species. A feeling, say humility, can’t just come naturally, it has to be captured, (showing dominance and authority), manipulated, placed on a scale of monetary value and sold. But this is the case for everything, and some things, like natural resources, are depleted without prohibiting laws, but some laws have been set in place to protect resources and animals. Today, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act actually does stop the killing and selling of eagles and eagle parts. Because of this, as well as the ban of certain pesticides like DDT, these eagle populations have stabilized. If caught twice violating this act, you become a felon. Our culture bends from one extreme to another and bounces back. Caught in the bend, we may look up and embrace nuance and eagles. Sometimes nuance is just the feeling of knowing eagles may be nearby.