June 21, 2018
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Eagles not always victors when birds fight for life

By Judy Kellogg Markowsky

Predation is not an easy thing for humans to watch, but it is a fact of nature that fascinates us.

Mike Briggs and son Eric of Taunton Bay Oyster Co. Inc. had an interesting experience as witnesses to predation.

They saw an eagle chasing a great blue heron toward them.
“The heron made a fatal mistake of flying away from us,” Mike relates.

Instantly the eagle closed in on the heron. When the eagle attacked, it managed to get its claws around the heron’s neck. Both birds tumbled down into the water about 30 feet away from them.

The two birds flopped around in the water for awhile, but the eagle was holding the heron’s head under water. Once the heron died, the eagle tried to fly off with it, but couldn’t.

Between the weight of the heron and the eagle’s wet wings, the eagle wasn’t able to fly. It then started to flap its wings and struggled to an oyster bag. There the eagle feasted and was still feeding on the heron when the observers left for the day.

Mike says, “I’ve seen a lot of amazing things in the wild, from white-tailed bucks fighting to calling a bull moose to within 20 yards of me, but this was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

A day later Mike said, “I noticed an eagle in a pine tree on Dwelley Point. Over on the shore across the narrows I saw two great blue herons. I kind of chuckled to myself that they had better be careful.

“Then, all of a sudden they took off. I looked over and saw the eagle heading straight toward them. The herons split up, and the eagle picked one of them and started after it. They went back and forth in the sky for quite some time. The heron started gaining altitude, and the eagle couldn’t catch it and finally gave up. Apparently, great blues aren’t totally vulnerable.
“It appeared to me that because of the heron’s awkward shape that it takes them a while to get up to maximum speed. I’d say they are most vulnerable when they first take off. That was certainly the case the day the first one was killed.”

As compassionate human beings we tend to feel sorry for prey animals, but predators are killing to eat and survive. Without predators the balance of nature would soon be unbalanced.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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