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Ten Thoughts While Staring at a Golden Eagle

Reflections upon encountering Autumn, a four-year-old golden eagle now residing at the National Aviary.

Photo Courtesy National Aviary

And now, here are ten thoughts I had while gazing at Autumn, the National Aviary’s golden eagle.


  1. Holy crap that is a big bird.

  2. This has to be the strongest creature in the building, including all the humans. Autumn looks like she could out-lift you at the gym. Autumn looks like she could lift the gym itself.

  3. When Autumn appears for one of the Aviary’s daily Eagle Talks — which occur at 11:30 a.m., featuring either Autumn or one of the bald eagles, depending on which raptor is in the mood — I bet she knows that she’s majestic. I bet she surveys the room with utter confidence. Like, “Yes, humans, know that I am your better. Gaze upon my feathery legs and mighty claws. I honor you with my presence.”

  4. Okay, so if a tiny little bird — a song sparrow, say — sees a golden eagle, does that sparrow even recognize that the thing it’s looking at is another bird? A song sparrow has a wingspan of about 8 inches; a golden eagle has a wingspan of around 80 inches. Ten times bigger, in other words. It’d be like encountering a human who was 60 feet tall. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t just be like, “Ah, yes, a slight variation of me,” if I walked out the front door and met a 60-foot dude. I’m pretty sure I’d lose my mind.

  5. When humans turn up at the Aviary at unusual hours — as they will on Feb. 22, for the “Summertime Somewhere” event, featuring bites, drinks and music chosen to evoke warmer climes — does Autumn just roll with it, or is it like walking in on a human in bed? “I’m glad to see you, but you’re not exactly getting me at my best right now,” that kinda thing?

  6. When Autumn looks at me, why do I feel like I want to start defending my character? She turns and stares at me, and I want to exclaim, “No, it’s okay, I’m a good person.” I feel like I want to impress this bird. I feel like I should be giving this bird a copy of my resume.

  7. As the national bird of Albania, Austria, Germany, Kazakhstan and Mexico, the golden eagle can represent every one of those countries in the Olympics, right? Because there are several events which Autumn could definitely dominate.

  8. Love is in the air at the Aviary right now. There’s a baby owl that’s getting plenty of attention, and there’s a female Andean cock-of-the-rock (no jokes, please) building a nest for hopefully imminent egg-laying in the new Andean Mountain Habitat. So ... can we get Autumn a boyfriend? I’d imagine this relationship to be stern and efficient but oddly tender.

  9. How do I know if this eagle likes me? As discussed in thought #6, it is very important to me to have Autumn’s approval. Can she give me a subtle nod? I’d be happy with a subtle nod.

  10. Holy crap that is a big bird.


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