Conversations with an Eagle: The Story of a Remarkable Relationship


262 pages
ISBN 1-55054-811-5
DDC 598.9'43






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Brenda Cox was working as a volunteer at O.W.L., a British Columbia
wildlife rehabilitation centre that specializes in birds of prey, when
she first met Ichabod, a 12-week-old bald eagle whose nest had blown
down during high winds. As a result of early hand-feeding by her
rescuers, the juvenile eagle had lost her fear response to humans,
exhibiting a “forceful desire to interact with people.”

When Ichabod was deemed too socialized to be set free, and euthanasia
loomed as the only option, Cox persuaded O.W.L.’s directors to give
her six months to train the eagle to do falconry with her. Once trained,
Ichabod could play an educational role at the centre, with the public
viewing the demonstrations at a safe distance. Bald eagles are not
traditional falconry birds: as Cox’s ambitious experiment unfolded,
there were both triumphs and heartbreaking setbacks.

Perhaps only a raptor lover would not be put off by some of the earthy
details Cox, without a trace of revulsion, supplies: the gory feedings
of rat and quail, the “musty smell of old blood and carrion” Ichabod
emitted. And there was nothing Disneyesque about Cox’s relationship
with the eagle. As a socialized bird, Ichabod reacted to humans “as
competitors for food and territory”—a circumstance that left her
trainer vulnerable to unpredictable, harrowing attacks: “I felt the
white-hot puncture in my scalp as a big foot wrapped around the back of
my head.” The reader never loses sight of the fact that Ichabod was a
wild creature, “her predatory nature … evident in her every action
and look.” And yet, there’s no denying that woman and eagle forged
an extraordinary bond: “She exhibited a kind of trust and comfort
around me that could be taken for affection”; “Ichabod had become
therapy for me. She grounded me in the elemental world.”

Early on in the book, Cox remarks, “For eight years, this eagle owned
me.” The emotional truth of this statement shines through long before
Ichabod’s story nears its wrenching conclusion.


Cox, Brenda., “Conversations with an Eagle: The Story of a Remarkable Relationship,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,