The Decorah Eagles and Daddies

I've been watching the live stream of a family of eagles in Decorah, Iowa over the last few weeks. I didn't start watching until the babies had already hatched, but they'd been alive only a few days when I started tracking their growth and progress. I was fascinated by the mother eagle's behavior, brooding and feeding and tending to the nest.

The first day I watched, I empathized with the poor Mama Eagle, diligently brooding over her eaglets as the wind blew her feathers and her eyes grew heavy. I rejoiced when I woke up, uncomfortable with my own growing baby's moving and my body's accommodation of her, and saw she'd tucked her head and was fully asleep.

The first few times I saw the father eagle, he seemed only to show up, look at the babies, and fly away. I wondered if he might not have a few nests with busy Mama Eagles, all somewhat bedraggled by the rigors of tending to their young. I resented him his freedom, his sleek feathers, and his adventurous lifestyle.

But then, after the eaglets were a few days old, I was watching when the Daddy Eagle came and relieved Mama Eagle of her burden. He fluffed up his chest feathers and brooded over the eaglets, just like their mother. He brought fish, squirrels, and other prey into the nest, and just as lovingly as the mother, he fed them, ripping bits of meat up to appropriate sizes for each of the babies. Mama Eagle spent more of her time on the nest, but Daddy Eagle seemed to be responsible for protection, for provision, and for giving the Mama some relief.

At five months pregnant, I'm surely anthropomorphizing these birds, but I do see such sweet parallels to the little family my husband and I are making. One of the first times I saw Daddy Eagle in the nest, he'd neatly stacked a few carcasses that Mama Eagle had been feeding the eaglets. He'd rearranged some of the nesting material, and he'd provided two fresh fish for food. That evening when I got home from work, I was surprised to find that my husband had painted the walls of our home, freshening it up for the arrival of our little girl. The next morning, he work up early with me and packed a good lunch, conscientiously putting in a bit too much food to accommodate my ravenous appetite, and making sure there were plenty of proteins and vitamin-rich foods for me.

I suppose I should not be so surprised that this is how families work. It's the way my own came together when I was a child, but somehow, the sheer naturalness of these eagles' instincts in caring for their young brings me great comfort. It gives me hope that we can do this, my husband and me. We can grow a baby together. Isn't that beautiful?


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