Bald Eagles belong to the tough love school of child-rearing. Once the babies reach flying age, out of the nest they go, never to return. Not for eagles is the open-door policy of letting grown children return home to find themselves or find a job, whichever comes first. (In the interests of full disclosure here, let me say that I love it when my grown kids come home to live for awhile – if I had the money I would buy up the houses on either side of mine, connect them with tunnels and walkways, and have everyone live cheek by jowl. This dream causes my kids to run around in circles, screaming and pulling at their hair.)
One of the junior eagles has been stubbornly ignoring Ma and Pa Eagles’ attempts at tough love. He keeps coming back to the nest for food and care. I think he’s had some trouble adjusting to adult life. Earlier in the year, I saw him try to catch a coot, as his parents often do. He soared above the terrified flock, which was all hunched up in the middle of the lake. Then he dove on it, causing several individual coots to break formation. All good so far. But then, instead of choosing one hapless coot and stooping on it repeatedly until it became too exhausted to dive out of the way, the adolescent eagle dove on first one coot, then another, then another, until he himself was too exhausted to try anymore. Later on that day, I saw him catch a fish – unfortunately, a fish so tiny he could hold it in one foot, and even then it almost slipped out between the talons. It was the equivalent of half a Chicken McNugget, definitely not a Happy Meal.
Still, he does look like a healthy eagle. His wings are strong, his eye is clear. He’s finding something to eat every day. Which is just as well because Ma and Pa have their own troubles to worry about now. They’re sitting on eggs that will soon hatch, if they haven’t already. The next generation of eagles is well on its way.