Studies in Persuasion: The Spanish Imperial Eagle

This project focuses on letting the animals talk, getting each endangered creature under your skin with their side of the story with some facts about their struggle. And it is a very short story — a first-person narrative in under five hundred words. The narrative is not militant, political, or activist. It is a socially conscious one-inch hint of a dark future. As one shares in the worries told in each story, some small part of it will remain in your memory. And one day, somewhere, there will be an opportunity for you to use that small piece of information in a way that is useful to yourself and to others. Beyond that, something more might be possible. Looking after our planet is not a job for individuals making big moves, it is the opposite. Real change happens with small, and narrow focus, and each of us is endowed with that capacity. Small and focused intent. It adds to the conversation, and benefits the collective.

The animal drawings are available in black line on a white background making them suitable for migration into many kinds of media and several platforms.

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There was a loud “owk!” and a sudden thud and something hit the ground. l stared into the layers of dense vegetation below, agitated, my head twitching, my eyes darting about. On the ground something struggled and struggled again but I could only see the large dark leaves shiver, like a trap, something was trapped. Then quiet.

High in this tall oak tree my mate Isbel is beside me. She has dark flight feathers, light -colored shoulders, and white flashes on the tips of her wings. She’s a dream in flight, flat V-shaped wings seem to just hang from the sky. Home is a nest on a big knotty branch, in the deep woods of these hills in Central Spain. Monogamous, we are fierce defenders of our nest against attack by other raptors.

We continued tearing the rabbit meat into small pieces for the chicks. Rabbits are abundant here now and no humans are anywhere near us. Eagles have been shot, poisoned, caught in traps, and electrocuted close to extinction.

I was a bold young eagle with intolerant parents. Thrown from the nest at six months I’ve somehow escaped electrocution, the most dangerous threat we face. The live wires on the pylons almost always kill juveniles and females, keeping the population low. You might think there are tens of thousands of us, but there are just 230 pairs left in Spain. Why are we in such danger?

One reason is the ripping down of habitat with groaning metal machines. Roads, farms, buildings grow from nowhere and so we flee to new nests, in trees far away.

Humans turn the land upside down. No breeding and hatching will happen. Rabbits simply disappear. In the nineties a deadly viral disease hit the rabbit population and it was as if rabbits had suddenly become extinct. A catastrophic shortage of food for eagles, and our numbers plummeted.

In open areas, people who run game breeding farms deliberately poison eagles. We might find small animals recently shot. Lead hunting ammunition is used which we swallow without knowing it. Those who ate died painfully and slowly from lead poisoning.

So life is not luxury in the shady trees. Life is a flying emergency.

I left the perch after awhile, making a long slow swoop to my right to see what had happened below. In the dark shade under the leaves I found our friend Madero, on her side, completely still. My guess is she brushed a pylon while hunting, was badly shocked and it threw off her balance and navigation. Almost at her nesting tree she hit a low branch hard, and went down. High up I heard the familiar call of her mate, Novio. “Owk!” “Owk!”


Originally published at Howard Stein.