— By LARRY M. JONES
The eagle, of which there are dozens of species throughout the world, is probably the most majestic and revered of all our avian creatures. Although not always our friend, the eagle is predominantly viewed as a symbol of strength and power – the master of its world. As such, it has been used as a national symbol by many countries on their coats of arms or flags throughout recorded history.
The fledgling United States adopted the bald eagle as our national symbol, despite the objections of Benjamin Franklin. He referred to the eagle as being of bad moral character, lazy and cowardly that will flee from smaller birds. He preferred the turkey, a grand indigenous American bird, who “would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”
Obviously, others did not share Ben’s opinion.
Comparing eagles and turkeys, I am reminded of the old saying I have heard, particularly while flying in the Navy, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles, when you work with a bunch of turkeys.”
In the aviation world over the past century, the term eagle has become synonymous with flying, aviators and aircraft. Many things are named after the great bird. Perhaps, the most famous reference to the eagle was originally used by Neil Armstrong when the first manmade craft (the “Eagle”) landed on the moon. He announced, “Houston, the Eagle has landed.”
I was reminded of the great bald eagle last week as I watched the local news. A gentleman from Rowlett investigated his barking dogs in his back yard, and discovered an injured and malnourished male bald eagle on the ground, unable to fly. A lady from the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, along with a game warden, came and captured the bird and has begun treatment. The beautiful mature male eagle had a badly infected eye, which made it next to impossible to hunt and capture prey. Its keen eyesight is paramount to its hunting ability. They plan to release the bird to the wild upon rehabilitation, probably in the vicinity of Lake Ray Roberts.
Once plentiful across North America, bald eagle numbers dropped to extremely low numbers by the 1960s across much of the U.S. The bird was put on the Endangered Species list in 1967, and in 1972 the use of DDT was banned here. It was discovered that the pesticide, while not toxic to the eagle, interfered with the bird’s calcium metabolism. As a result, the females could not lay healthy eggs and populations plummeted. Thankfully, as a result of the ban, numbers began to steadily increase.
While stationed in Florida for many years in the Navy, I often saw the beautiful birds while out fishing. They would build massive nests in the tops of the tallest trees in the swamps and along shorelines where they searched for fish, their main diet.
I see eagles about once a year down on the “pore farm.” Each time it will be while they are flying down the Brazos River channel, or flying overhead the large stock tank below my house. Every time I witness this rare and majestic bird soaring overhead, it warms my heart. I don’t care what old Ben thought, one eagle is better than 10 flocks of turkeys in my field.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to email@example.com.