- Eagles are an American Icon
- Eagles signified majestic strength from the ancient times of Babylon, Egypt and Rome
- Eagles are part of Native American tribe mythology
- Eagles…respect, honor, tradition, nature, awe.
By Larry Whiteley
The bald eagle’s role as our nation’s symbol goes back to 1782 when it was added to the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle was selected because of its great strength, stately looks, long life, and because it is native to North America. The design went on to appear on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings and other government-related items. The bald eagle became an American icon. To us as Americans, along with our flag, the bald eagle represents freedom and all that freedom stands for and is worth fighting for.
Since ancient times the bald eagle has been considered a sign of strength. Babylon, Egypt and the Roman legions all used the eagle as their standard, or symbol. Eagles figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers and play a major role in their religious ceremonies.
In some of their legends, an eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator. Eagle feathers were earned by Plains Indians as war honors and worn in their feathered head dresses. In some tribes today, eagle feathers are still given to soldiers returning from war or to people who have achieved a great accomplishment.
Eagles are also mentioned 17 times in the Bible. My favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live 30-35 years. A full-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7-feet. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and dive at 100 miles an hour. Eagles feed primarily on fish, supplemented by small mammals, waterfowl and carrion.
Bald Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time, some nests become enormous and can reach a diameter of 9 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents share incubation and guard them diligently against predators. While the chicks are small, the parents move about the nest with their talons balled up into fists to avoid harming them.
For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls that are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high-pitched note that is said to be unlike any other calls in nature.
Fishermen who recognize the sound of an eagle usually stop fishing just to watch this majestic bird soaring in a bright blue sky. The bonus is when they dive from the sky to the water to do a little fishing themselves. Campers, hikers, canoers and kayakers are sometimes also treated to the sights and sounds of an eagle. It’s a memory that stays with you forever.
Many years ago I was flying back home to Springfield, MO from Chicago in an old prop airplane. The plane flew very low all the way back. As I watched out the window I thought to myself, “This must be what an eagle sees as he fly’s around.” I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing a poem and finished it before we landed.
The line about the round rainbow was added later and the title was changed after my wife and I were flying back from Florida. When we looked out the window of the plane, we were amazed to see a round rainbow with the shadow of the airplane right in the middle of it.
Rainbows are created when the sun reflects off rain drops to mirror a multitude of colors. Most people don’t realize that a rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon because we are only seeing half of it. When the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane or by an eagle, a rainbow is a full circle. A round rainbow is called a “glory” that NASA defines as an optical phenomenon. To us, this “glory” was a sign that God was watching over us that day. He still is!
THE EAGLE SEES THE ROUND RAINBOW
By Larry Whiteley
What must it be like to perch on a limb
in a tree on a mountain high?
Then look above and spread your wings
and fly into the sky.
The eagle sees the round rainbow
that has no beginning or end.
He sees the flatlands, hills and valleys
and places I’ve never been.
What must it be like to look below
at cloud shadows on the trees?
It must be wonderful
to be so wild and free.
The traffic on the roads must appear
like ants continually on the go.
Following straight and winding roads
to places only they know.
What must it be like to fly along the rivers
carving out the land?
Over ponds, lakes and oceans
all created by God’s mighty hand.
The patchwork quilt of the fields below,
the prairies, the deserts, the plains.
How could you ever get tired of looking
when what you see is never the same?
What must it be like to fly over rows of houses,
giant factories, malls and other stuff?
For a majestic bird so used to nature’s beauty
neon lights, billboards and concrete must be tough.
I wonder if tears come to an eagle’s eyes
and they fall to the ground.
When he sees streams filled with trash instead of fish
and pollution all around.
What must it be like to fly above
when the seasons come and go?
To see the landscape turn from green to gold and red
to the white of a winter snow.
What must it be like to be an eagle
and soar way up high?
Oh the sights we would behold
if we could see through an eagle’s eyes.