The Peace Eagle

May 23, 2008 at 4:00 pm 16 comments

My favorite bird really didn’t do much to earn its title. It’s the chickadee and the only reason it was propelled to the top was because it was my maternal grandmother’s favorite bird. Sure they are cute, but I really did not embrace them until 2000 when my grandmother died. After that, anytime I saw a chickadee I was reminded of her and it made me smile. And from there my love of those little birds with the black caps grew.

BUT– my second favorite bird earned its right on its own volition. And, unlike the chickadee, I think it’s a less traditional candidate. It’s the turkey vulture or, as I indiscriminately call them and black vultures, buzzards. I ran into a few yesterday as I drove to Deerfield Bike Path for a walk.

Three “buzzards” just hanging out – the two on the left are actually black vultures and the one on the right is a turkey vulture.

I love these birds. A buzzard’s floating silhouette was a near constant fixture in sky when I was a child. They always looked so tranquil. Now whenever I see a buzzard above, I feel closer to my family and closer to home.

Turkey Vulture (Photo by Ms. Kathleen)

On the subject of childhood, buzzards evoke a memory that still makes me smile. One day my father was especially displeased with my younger brother. I was out in the yard with a gruff Dad, and he noted a group of buzzards circling above us.

“They know I’m about to kill Jay,” he said. 🙂

Painting by my brother, who was not in fact devoured by buzzards.

Buzzards are also sentimental to me on the emetophobia front. In winter 2002, I was visiting my parents and had a horrible bout of anxiety and appetite loss. One morning my father asked if I wanted to go to breakfast. To me, that was a terrifying request (and not because he suggested McDonald’s).

“I don’t know,” I said with tears in my eyes, “What if I get there and I’m not hungry?”

My father was not phased by this obstacle in the least. “Well, then we bring it home and feed it to the dogs!”

Sounded easy enough. I got in the car and went with my father to McDonald’s. I cautiously ate a few bites of a Yogurt Parfait before my fearful esophagus would swallow no more.

On our way back, Dad got enthusiastic, “Oh Vicky, you’ve GOT to see this!”

He took a few turns and suddenly we were at a townhouse development. Typical to Northern Virginia architecture, all the houses looked exactly the same. But then there was one house in the row that stood out. The roof was COVERED with buzzards… and subsequently had its fair share of buzzard crap as well.

“There are here every morning,” Dad said, “And then after lunch, they go and fly across the river.”

We laughed and pointed and laughed some more. We speculated. What was it about that ONE townhouse that made it such an appealing roost? How come they didn’t sit on any of the adjacent townhouses? Did they used to have a tree in the same spot? Do the owners of the house know they have visitors while they are away?

Eventually, we returned back to the car where the yogurt was waiting in the cup holder. I was now relaxed and happy and as we drove back to the house and continued to marvel about buzzards, I finished every bit of my breakfast.

The root of my worries that day was a fear of vomit. And here a bird whose defense mechanism is to vomit on its threats was my salvation.

Vicky’s unlikely hero (Photo by Vicki and Chuck Rogers)

“Turkey vulture” and “buzzard” aren’t exactly appealing terms. The scientific name is a little better– Cathartes aura where cathartes means “purifier”. But I think the Cherokees came up with the best name. They call the birds “Peace Eagles” because buzzards don’t kill to eat. They simply recycle.

From my perspective, “Peace Eagle” is the perfect name! When I see a buzzard gliding around in the sky, “peaceful” is definitely a word I would use to describe their flight. Their ability to make me think of my family and feel as if I were home again brings along a sense of ease, a feeling of peace. And one day way back in 2002 when even a meal was a scary notion, it was a group of buzzards who brought me the most important type of peace.

Peace from one’s own mind.


Entry filed under: Buzzard, Dad, Emetophobia, Jay.

Henry David Thoreau on the American Chestnut Measuring Trees, Vicky-Style

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tgaw  |  May 23, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    P.S. While grabbing some information for this post, I discovered there is a Turkey Vulture Society

  • 2. Kathleen Marie  |  May 23, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    I have never met a person who like buzzards but you are so right. They do float serenely overhead and with amazing grace considering how ugly and gawky they look on the ground. My favorite vultures are from the cartoon Jungle Book.

    Thanks for commenting so nicely on my photo and for giving me credit here on your blog.

    Have a wonderful day. God Bless!

  • 3. Dave  |  May 23, 2008 at 8:44 pm <== most definitely NOT a Peace Eagle.

    (warning: somewhat distressing, especially if you like goats. video is not for the squeamish.)

    It does seem appropriate that such an animal would be the symbol of the United States. WE’LL TOSS YOUR GOATS!

  • 4. chriggy  |  May 23, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Actually, the symbol of the United States is the bald eagle, not the golden eagle. I think bald eagles are slightly smaller. Not that they’re any less violent.

  • 5. tgaw  |  May 23, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    @Dave – Did you see the related video of the golden eagle and a fox? They had a quick shot where judges were scoring the attack.

  • 6. Clint  |  May 24, 2008 at 12:33 am

    between the goat and the fox…. wow… just…. wow. Brutal! 5 stars.

  • 7. chriggy  |  May 24, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Wow, definitely 5 stars. I never realized golden eagles were THAT big. Brutal, yes. But nature is brutal.

    Awsome link. The video was in German, so I could actually understand it 🙂

  • 8. chriggy  |  May 24, 2008 at 1:59 am

    BTW, they were never actually scoring the attack. Even though in my book it would get a solid 10/10.

  • 9. tgaw  |  May 24, 2008 at 8:26 am

    @Chriggy – Oh weird. What were all the signs with “9”s for?

  • 10. chriggy  |  May 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Oh wow, I had to rewatch it again. I missed that shot the first time around. I must have zoned out for a second.

    Basically, it’s a yearly fox hunting competition they have.

  • 11. geekhiker  |  May 25, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Having long been a fan of raptors, I really like this post. Turkey vultures are all over the place in California (you may recall the picture from the Strawberry Peak hike). I’m always a little jealous when I see them lazily riding up the thermals…

  • 12. Dave  |  May 27, 2008 at 6:01 am

    I hadn’t seen that eagle-vs-fox video before. Yikes! Makes me want to keep looking up whenever we go hiking.

  • 13. gaugeyagee  |  May 27, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Nice post! At my last job in DC I often saw 2 huge birds flying around or sitting on the edge of the roof. I don’t know much about birds, so I looked in a picture book of North American birds that Nicole has and found out that they were both turkey vultures.

    I later found out that a section of roof was level with and visible from the top floor, so I would often go up there to see them. The male would get defensive when he saw me through the glass and would spread his wings and stare me down, which was always an awesome sight. If he was right outside the glass, he would tap it with his beak too to scare me off. I would always play along and take a couple steps back when they did these things… I didn’t want to ultimately scare them from that spot because then I wouldn’t be able to see them up close anymore.

  • 14. Clint  |  May 27, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Haha… you really WERE bored there, Greg!

  • 15. Chriggy  |  May 27, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Apparently, there’s a Bald Eagle reserve just 18 miles from DC.

  • 16. gaugeyagee  |  May 27, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    @Clint: Haha I wasn’t kidding when I told you that place was hell! And now that I switched jobs, I have my own office with closable door, 2 Internet-connected computer, 3 displays, <10 minute commute almost all on local/residential roads.

    But yes, I had no work to do there and no Internet computer at my desk, so I took lots of very leisurely walks around the building.


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