Little Eagle Thoughts

The little eagles have gotten big and dark and much stronger, yet they remain awkward. They cannot fly. They sit around the edge of the nest, looking over, with their necks bulging in front from their full crops, and they watch the world outside the nest. Sometimes one will look at the camera, intently, curiously. Sometimes two will sit side by side for a long time, wings flopped loosely by their sides.

They cannot fly. Their wings simply are not strong enough. The whole organism develops in sync. (Except their enormous beaks and their huge, gangly feet.) When they have all the mental and physical attributes they need to be able to fly, they will begin to strengthen their wings. Only then will they be able to fly.

The nest has gradually been reshaped into an ovoid platform. The scooped-out bowl is gone. They are big enough, coordinated enough, for this. They can walk the length of the nest on their rounded talons. They hold their feet as their parents do in the nest, lightly curled talons inward, so nobody gets punctured. But they do this not out of parental instinct, but because they do not have the strength yet in their feet to clench and unclench, the talent above all except flight that will guarantee their survival.

The two who have been sitting up peering over the edge have now hobbled back toward the center of the nest and literally toppled over, necks outstretched, sound asleep, like any baby. The number one chick remains sitting up, facing the camera, preening the downy feathers of his or her chest, wings relaxed down on the nest, yellow claws feebly curled in front.

They cannot any of them hold their wings up yet. They can stretch them, as they stretch their thickening legs, as they sprawl in the soft center of the nest, as a sleeping puppy stretches. They can scratch their heads with their toes and pick their feathers with their beaks. They can pick at things in the nest, twigs, feathers, food bits, handling with their beaks, playing house.

And they can wobble to the edge and look over and out at the world beyond the nest, the world in which they will spend the rest of their lives once they leave the nest. Do they know this? As they perch on the edge observing the wide world, for long minutes at a time, what do those little eagles think about?


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