Local Bird Watcher and FODMer Observe a Bald Eagle Fight in the Marsh
On July 14, 2023, Julia Tanner was bird watching with her camera in Dyke Marsh and came upon a pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) appearing to fight. Julia recorded the struggle and shared her photos with the Friends of Dyke Marsh. Thank you, Julia.
Julia and FODMer Ed Eder saw some bald eagles in the trees on the island east of the boardwalk. As she turned to leave, she noticed the bald eagles soaring and one hitting the water. She assumed that the one that swooped down on the water was fishing. She started snapping photos and later saw one of the bald eagles starting to swim slowly in the water, agonizingly, to shore. The eagle swam painstakingly over several minutes, using a "butterfly stroke," similar to the way a human swims using this stroke.
|Bald eagle swimming toward shoreline. 1 of 3 All photos by Julia Tanner|
|Bald eagle swimming toward shoreline. 2 of 3|
|Bald eagle swimming toward shoreline. 3 of 3|
The second bald eagle attacked the swimming bald eagle again and the swimming bird used its talons to fend off the attack.
|Bald eagle attack 1 of 4|
|Bald eagle attack 2 of 4|
|Bald eagle attack 3 of 4|
|Bald eagle attack 4 of 4|
The swimming bald eagle made it to the shoreline, pulled itself out of the water and dried its wings for a few minutes.
|The attacked bald eagle dried off. 1 of 2|
|The attacked bald eagle dried off. 2 of 2|
Then the attacked bald eagle flew away to the south.
|The attacked bald eagle was able to get away.|
Ed speculated that the local birds were probably "teaching a lesson" to bald eagles in the next territory south, near Tulane Drive.
“Bald eagles become territorial during breeding season,” according to the Smithsonian Institute/National Zoo’s website. “The talon-grappling, cartwheeling fight they are known for is an aggressive territorial dispute, not a courtship behavior. Their territories vary greatly by geographic location and home ranges appear to overlap.”
Ed said he’d never seen a bald eagle swim like that.