Sunday, October 7, 2012

What Makes Eagles Laugh?

Normally I choose to write about things from long ago or which may seem unbelievable. However, this month I choose to write about events that have happened to me while at the World Bird Sanctuary.
 One doesn't usually think of the stately Bald Eagle laughing, but read on....
All sorts of interesting things have happened; things I will never forget for the rest of my life. However, there are some things that stand out more than others. One of the things that stood out the most is when I got the eagles to laugh.

I know what you are saying. Eagles don’t laugh--especially at people and what they do. Well that is true…but from a human perception it often seems that eagles do laugh.  They also seem to laugh when they are proud of themselves. Attributing human emotions to animals is called anthropomorphism and I believe that all animal lovers have been guilty of it at one time or another.  As a writer of fables I tend to give human traits to inanimate objects, as well as animals, so humor me for the next few paragraphs.

As the Supervisor of the Education Training Center (we call it the ETC for short) for the summer of 2012, I get to work with many of our resident Bald Eagles. For the most part they are rather quiet, and happily sit on their perches and wait for their food to come. That’s one thing that can get an eagle to laugh. They see us coming with a big fish in our hands and start to get excited. How do they get excited you ask? Well they start to flap their wings and call out as we pass by. With a quick toss, the fish lands in front on them, at which they quickly jump on top of them like the fish would swim away. I assure you that they can’t… the fish are… well… dead of course.
 Lewis having a good laugh--or so it seems
Many of the Bald Eagles throw their heads back and release a long and hardy call which sounds just like a laugh. What does an Eagle laugh sound like? Well, you’ll have to come by and listen for yourself. It is quite contagious. Good food is always something to laugh about and have a good time over.

Bald Eagles don’t just laugh about food--though that seems to be the case most of the time. They also tend to laugh when they are proud. Sometimes when we train the eagles, instead of getting a mouse or a piece of rat as a reward, they get to go after a lure. Yes, that’s right, birds like lures too, but they’re a little different from the ones people use to catch fish--a lot different.

When the bird sees the lure being swung around by the trainer, they know they are going to have a bit of fun. They swoop in low and take hold of the lure.  One of our eagles, Lewis, loves the lure. He pounces on it and throws his head back and lets loose a long loud laugh. He likes to let the other eagles know that he got to play with the lure and he’s proud that he did. Though sometimes he gets a little carried away and tries to bring his prize back to the perch with him. Of course, he’s not allowed to.

The funniest thing that make eagles laugh are things their trainers and keepers do. Just recently, I was eating my lunch in the ETC. It was just about one o’clock and time to head back to work. I had been sitting for some time and was a little stiff. All of a sudden I heard a “tink tink” on the roof. It didn’t hit me at first, but then I grabbed my keys and ran to my car. It had started to rain rather hard and I had left my windows down. My leg wouldn’t work and my glasses were slowly filling with water. By the time I got to my car, my seats were wet and so was everything else in my car. I quickly rolled up my windows. As soon as they were up, the rain let up and was barely a sprinkle. I sat in my car for a moment and released a sigh. I got out and started to walk back to the building. As I stumbled and grumbled, all of the eagles that had watched me run started to laugh and cackle. I’m not exaggerating. They all started to laugh.

I look back and think of that surreal moment--Eagles laughing at me because I was trying to keep the interior of my car dry. I’m sure they weren’t thinking that. They probably thought it was funny to see a person running and then grumbling at the sky. As if the sky cared that my windows were opened. As if they cared that the inside of my car was now wet. They really did seem to enjoy watching me run like a mad woman.

It is kind of nice to know that I can at least make an eagle laugh.

Submitted by Allison Brehmer, World Bird Sanctuary ETC Supervisor

1 comment:

JoHanna said...

Oh Allison, I can envision this perfectly. :)