Monday, January 29, 2007

Ode to an eagle

The removal of the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species list has me refreshing myself on North American wildlife. I'm not that familiar with Gray Wolf management (wildlife management is basically artificially-maintained defense against Darwinian natural selection in action), although a common misconception is that wolves are dangerous to people. To the contrary, they almost never assaulted people two decades ago and prior. In the last twenty years, attacks are on the rise (owing primarily to preservation efforts in areas of relatively significant human concentration) but still nowhere near the frequency and severity of attacks on humans from other canines (coyotes are especially problematic), or other predatory animals like mountain lions, diamond-backs, or black widows.

Jumping orthogonally, check out the shot of the Golden Eagle above. Even if an emaciated, immature one went after Fred the Rabbit, they're awe-inspiring.

What an incredibly majestic creature. I respectfully offer a dissent both to the majority of the Founding Fathers who chose the American (Bald) Eagle, as well as Ben Franklin who backed the Wild Turkey, to represent the US as the national bird.

True, the Bald Eagle is unique to North America, and is the second largest raptor floating in our skies (and no one is going to back the aesthetically 'displeasing' and nearly extinct but slowly recovering quasi-raptor, the California Condor). And the Wild Turkey is a scrappy, potentially vicious if unassuming bird (a nice fit for the US in the late 18th Century).

But the Golden Eagle combines dexterity, regality, and sheer power into an awe-inspiring end-product. Unlike his clumsier, slower cousin, the Golden Eagle doesn't live primarily through theft (from Ospreys) and the consumption of carrion. Instead, he hunts biggies (even the occasional sheep or deer). And tough though the turkey may be, he'd better take cover when the sun's saffron rays iridescently reflect off the feathered panoply of this most wonderful creature.

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