Sunday, May 04, 2008

National Eagle Center

On the way to the Spring Barbershop Harmony Society Contest, Betty and I stopped in Wabasha, MN, to visit the National Eagle Center. It was a great place to stop on a rather cold, very rainy spring day. The facility is relatively new and has a number of interesting exhibits that explain about how eagles live.

This is Donald, a golden eagle. All the eagles at the center were birds with injuries that keep them from being released back into the wild.
In a room surrounded by vintage U.S. flags was this sterling silver eagle sculpture by A. Gianelli. The stripes you see on it are reflections from the flags.
We got to hear this gentleman talk about eagles. We learned that even one tiny piece of lead buckshot can kill an eagle within 5-6 days because their digestive tracts will completely dissolve it.

Did you know they exert over 400 pounds per square inch pressure with each talon? Betty and I each managed almost 20 pounds on their grip tester and thought that was pretty good but it's nothing to what an eagle can do.

Eagles weigh about 10 pounds on average and can lift about a third of their weight. They don't use muscles to hang on to the fish they catch in the Mississippi river. Their tendons, once their talons wrap around their meal, lock into place. So if they grab a fish that's too big, it's difficult for their pea-sized brains to understand that even though it's their dinner they've got, if they don't let go, they'll drown. The people at the Eagle Center tell fishermen if they see an eagle go into the water, they should carefully scoop them up in their fishing net, move to shore with them, and then just let the bird walk out of the net. DO NOT, under any circumstances, use your hands to "help" the eagle. They have their dinner, and you could add to their protein intake.

This is Columbia, named after an astronaut visited the center. She's just finished a meal of fish and other raw meat.
After we left the Eagle Center, Betty and I drove on to West Salem, Wisconsin, to the Friday night quartet contest. I'll blog further on the weekend's events later.

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