What is the meaning of a bald eagle? They're our national birds, of course, beautiful symbols of pride freedom. Ecologically they're apex predators: they take life, yet in a deeper sense bestow it, their presence making the land more verdant. They are wildness incarnate -- which made it all the more troubling when, on Mother's Day morning, a female bald eagle was found on a sidewalk in downtown Bangor, Maine.
She was disoriented and unable to stand, much less fly. Each time she tried, she toppled over again. Photographs of the scene had an almost mythical quality: a being from another world, fallen to Earth, bystanders keeping their distance. When a game warden came to take her to Avian Haven, a regional bird hospital, she didn't struggle.
And then, incredibly and terribly, just a few hours later in the same spot, a second eagle died: the female's mate, who took flight from their nest, lost control, hit a high-tension power line and died in a blaze of electric-green light.
The two had arrived three years ago, building their nest beside in an old white pine tree, beside an apartment building. To locals, they weren't just symbols. They were neighbors, too, a part of the community. "We considered them 'our' eagles," said Ryan Robbins, who lives in the nest-adjacent apartment building. "We were always keeping an eye on them, telling each other when we saw them and what they ate. We anointed ourselves as their caretakers."