Ever been in the Arb and heard a familiar “kleek kik ik ik ik”? Me neither, but according to Wikipedia, that’s what I sound like. I’m a bald eagle, the second largest bird in North America, and my life partner and I live year-round in the Arb.
We’re actually in charge of the best tree in the Arb, a big, mostly dead cottonwood tree right on the edge of the Cannon, across from the peninsula connected to West Field. It stands taller than all the trees around it, perfect for spying on mysterious humans that throw strings with dangly bits in the water.
Our nest, the likes of which are the biggest of any North American bird, is near campus by the Cannon River; it’s our secret headquarters and we base our approximately one-square mile territory off it, though we can wander dozens of miles from home in the winter to find food. Our wings reach six and a half feet on average, and the humans that work in the arb think we are at least 17 years old, since it takes about five years for us to mature and humans have been spotting us up and down the river for a dozen years or longer. We live to be 20-30 years old, and my partner and I can have one to three kids each year. Our eaglets can gain up to six ounces (170g) a day, which is– you guessed it– another North American bird record! I also prey on more than 400 different species, including fish, other birds (like coots or even pelicans), some reptiles, and cute fuzzy mammals (even beavers!), which I either hunt down or find as carrion.
Many eagle generations ago, before the Arb and the buildings were created, we bald eagles saw other humans, the Mdewankanton and Wahpekute bands of the Dakota people, before they were told the land was no longer theirs; those people and others saw us as spiritual messengers, protectors, symbols of fertility, and symbols of peace. Others may think freedom, strength.
In general, we’re just really cool birds, so make sure to say hi when you see me in the Arb!
–Klara Gabriela Heuchert ‘22, for the Cole Student Naturalists