I had seen five mid-air eagle fights in weeks before this story started, all in vicinity of our eagle tree. It always happened late in the day. Never lasted long enough for me to get my camera and get out. There were only two real fights with full contact, when the eagles tried to fight with their talons. The other were only attempts - the invaders were quickly chased away. I haven't seen many fights in our area before. Are there many homeless eagles around here? Were they looking for a nest or only for a leftover food in the nest?
A Story of...
A Rescue of Two Fighting Eagles
One January evening I got a phone call from Danette and Andy, my fellow residents of Nico Wynd Estates. They heard and saw two eagles with entangled talons under our eagle nest tree. They already phoned O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife - Rehabilitation Society) – the help was coming soon.
I grabbed my camera and hurried out there. On the way I thought I should have taken a flash light. But I did not want to waste time going back home, so I went on, though it was dark. I came to the tree but could not see much as my eyes hadn't adjusted yet. I only saw a large, dark spot on the snow covered ground, further away.
I stopped and took a picture. When the camera flashed I finally noticed the two eagles on the ground, side by side.
are imprints of the eagles' wings
in the snow around them. Who knows how long they were fighting, or
laying there. By this time, it was close to 9 o'clock in the winter
evening. Several hours since the last daylight.
When I started to get closer, both eagles tried to jump up, but they did not get far with their entangled talons, only a meter or two.
By now, my eyes got used to the dark and I could see them quite well.
I did not want to go closer. I could see they could not close one of their wings, they must have had their legs twisted with entangled talons. Not very comfortable positions. They must have been exhausted and maybe injured even... in pain. I was glad knowing that the help was coming. So, I went on taking more pictures.
The eagles did not move as I walked around them. They just turned their heads... watching.
As you can see, their legs and talons were covered by their tail feathers. I could see that both were either males or females.
At first I thought the larger one with the bright white coloured head and tail was younger. But I later learned it was the other way around.
knew that one with the coloured
feathers and beak was not our eagle. But was the other one ours? If
so, and if they were females, then she should have a band on her
By then, Danette and Andy came back out. How glad I was that they went home to phone me about the eagles.
Shortly after a pick-up truck arrived at the near cul-de-sac, and three people rushed out of it, heading our way. They seemed to know where to go, where our eagle tree was. They were the rescue team from O.W.L. I later learned they were Mindy Dick (Bird Care/Education Staff at O.W.L) with two volunteers, Graham Longmuir and Bruce Hutchison. Without wasting time on formalities, they went on to do their job right away, using something what looked like two big fishing nets.
They separated the eagles right away. It wasn't easy, but they seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Once separated, the eagles fought to get away from the rescuers' hands. But to no avail. The older one (with the white feathers) fought harder than the other one.
Was the younger one injured? It looked like it stopped fighting once Mindy held it in her hands... looking into her eyes the whole time. Did she want to let Mindy know that she was in pain? She had to be exhausted.
It was so quick and exciting.
There was no time to talk. The rescuers from O.W.L. were very efficient and immediately wanted to get both eagles safely into pet carriers. The kind you usually see used for dogs.
the eagles were safely
loaded on the pick-up. And after a short discussion, and thank yous,
they were gone.
The next day I watched our eagle nest. I could see only one eagle at a time flying in and out.
I phoned O.W.L. and learned that both eagles from last night were females. I asked Mindy if either one had a band on her leg. But neither one did. Did it mean that it was not our female?
They both were kept at O.W.L. for further observation and treatment. Both were injured from the fight. The younger one needed antibiotics. The older had a lame leg.
The next day I was surprised to see two eagles in our nest. They looked like they were our eagles. These pictures were taken in an early, freezing cold morning.
It took six weeks until the first one was ready to be released. It was the older female, the one with the lame leg.
Here she is just minutes before...
...she had to wait a minute for the last group photo.
left: Andy Hoenisch (he and his
wife Danette phoned O.W.L. and me that night when it happened), then
the two O.W.L. volunteers Graham Longmuir and Bruce Hutchison.
Only then the door was opened and she stepped out. She now had a temporary band on her left leg.
She did not fly away. Her first flight was short. She landed near us.
She seemed as though she was looking at her leg. Now healed, but which was lame just days earlier... It seemed fine. She knew what to do...
...and took off...
...to be free again.
second female was released a week
later by Mindy from her hands. The eagle was with a permanent
numbered band on her right leg. (Danette was there with us too,
I just did not have a chance to her
picture - the eagle took off so quickly
The eagle was in air. Mindy followed the eagle. “A successful release is always emotional,” she said later.
But this eagle didn’t go far either. And landed on the beach, not far from us.
Then she looked back at us for one last time, maybe trying to say "thank you Mindy." And took off...
Should we be surprised finding two eagles with entangled talons on a ground? Not, if it is so busy here. But it was surprising that both eagles were strangers and not one of ours. What amazing nature we have here, in our backyards.
Bald Eagle information
Flight range: Bald eagles can fly to an altitude of 3,000 m (10,000 feet).
Sight:At a fixed altitude of 300 m (1,000 feet) over open country, a bald eagle can spot prey over an area of almost 8 km² (3 square miles). Bald eagles have eyelids that close during sleep. They can also see fish swimming underwater from several hundred feet above.
Average feather count:7,000
Average weight: adult female = 5.2 kg (11 ½ pounds); adult male = 4.3 kg (9 ½ pounds). Eagles can generally carry up to half of their own weight.
Incubation period:35 days
Chicks:Sometimes two chicks will survive, but it is not uncommon for the older eaglet to kill the smaller one, especially if the older is a female, as females are consistently larger than males. Should one chick decide to kill its sibling, neither parent will make the slightest effort to stop the fratricide.
Nesting cycle:It takes about 20 weeks from the time the parents build or rebuild the nest and the young are on their own. During the nesting cycle the parents remain within one to two miles of the nest.
Body Temperature: About 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit)