Not as flashy, but far more stirring than “The Colbert Report” fanfare opening. Image via Wikipedia
Today’s showdown is between the showy bald eagle and the show-off northern mockingbird. Up until now I’ve been siding with the dark horse in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “March Migration Madness” game, but this prediction seems a safe bet.
Known for linguistic mimicry and intimidation tactics — sometimes defending its territory by attacking house pets or people Hitchcock-style — the mockingbird is a formidable foe to the bird that has been the symbol of our country since 1782. The symbolism-laden cardinal did not win Round 2 yesterday, but it seems un-American not to go through hoops for the bald eagle in Round 3.
The eagle nest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Va.
As an editor ever striving for eagle eyes, I refuse to listen to the mockingbird, ha-HA. Conniving plagiarist!
Don’t wanna prey on your patriotism, but our communal bird of prey needs your prayers. A solemn tale: In late fall of 2003, a pair of glorious eagles nested in the Norfolk (Va.) Botanical Garden; 19 eaglets have hatched and 15 have fledged since then. Their majesties became the darlings of the park, with flocks of visitors craning necks for a glimpse, and, eventually, an eagle-cam was trained 24/7 on the love nest.
On April 26, 2011, while dining on sushi at Lake Whitehurst near Norfolk International Airport, the mama eagle, nicknamed “Mom Norfolk,” was struck and killed by a landing jet, thrusting her mate and the community into gloom. The next day, three surviving eaglets were rescued and sent to the Wildlife Center of Virginia to be raised and released to the wild when mature.
Eagles, of course, mate for life and can live 40 years in the wild, even longer in captivity. Grief-stricken Mr. Eagle lingered, then surprised and delighted all by luring a new mate to his lair last fall. The birding community couldn’t forget Mom Norfolk, though, and, on Oct. 15, Eagle Tribute Plaza was dedicated in her honor.
I visited the site with my aunt Susie and sister, Patti, in early October, before its installation. Up in the garden’s observatory treehouse, we spied a crew unloading the centerpiece 8-foot-tall statue.
Spying through the brambles: Will she be standing, not flying? we wondered.
- That’s the spirit! Eagle-eyed Susie reconnoiters.
Later, Susie told me, Daddy Eagle took a similar interest. During the ceremony, a hushed crowd heard his call and saw him whoosh in, alone, for a better look, bringing tears to onlookers.
The eagle statue, unveiled. (Photo by Patti Davidson-Gorbea)
A mother’s cry. (Photo by Patti Davidson-Gorbea)
Although Ben Franklin reportedly lobbied for the turkey to be our national bird (Thanksgiving and all), the bald eagle is a sacred treasure to all Americans, especially Native Americans. But recent news of the Fish and Wildlife Service giving authorization for the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming to kill two eagles in the name of religious liberty — mostly to add feathers in their caps — had to give one pause.
Birders, this goes beyond team spirit. In defense of God, country and hovering mothers everywhere: Let us prey.