[Tweeters] Subject: Bald eagle crashes into Puget Sound

Daniel R Froehlich danielfroehlich at gmail.com
Wed Jun 12 13:25:48 PDT 2019

Martha & Tweeters,
I've seen an adult Bald Eagle so waterlogged in Puget Sound that it swam
ashore using its wings as paddles after failing to take off. It took over
20 minutes and I was impressed that it didn't tire from hypothermia, as a
human might in December Puget Sound water temperatures; it was buoyant, so
maybe it mostly managed to keep the water off its skin. I thought it might
have ended up in the water after a fish-dive gone awry. But perhaps I was
seeing the aftermath of a story more like Martha's...

Territoriality for optimal reusable/traditional nest sites--like those for
many raptors on cliff promontories or large stick nests constructed over
many years near the best foraging areas--may warrant gladiator-like
life-or-death battles. I first witnessed such a contest at the Farallon
Islands in central California where two pairs of Peregrines kept at each
other for the entire duration of our circumnavigation of the islets with
spectacular diving and strafing and screaming, occasionally all four in an
aerial scrum. The whole thing terminated stunningly when the two males,
locked together in death-vise grips, literally dropped into the 20' heaving
ocean right in front of us, were smothered by the churning waves and never
came up again that we saw... a tough sell for the conservation-oriented
clientele on the Point Reyes Bird Observatory's special funders' tour we
were on!

That was before I could invoke the all-or-nothing evolutionary value that
such a nest-site may represent to breeding pairs: i.e., ensured breeding
success at that particular nest-site vs. a higher risk of failure at others
due to a mix of factors such as:
-- less reliable or harder-to-catch food items,
-- higher-density occupation by other pairs competing for that food,
-- or the challenge of keeping other pairs away from nesting cliffs or

The Farallons, breeding home for a fabulous bounty of peregrine-sized prey
and their young clumsy offspring, offer a rich diet for a discerning
Peregrine palate. And once you're the couple that controls the cliffs, you
definitely have an edge in keeping others away, since they can only
challenge your ownership after a 20-mile unforgiving ocean-crossing. The
battle we witnessed was interesting since it involved the coordinated
effort of an apparently usurping pair rather than just an individual male
or female. Of course I can't be sure about the full story: Did they
really set out from the mainland to make the play? Or had two pairs
settled on the islets late in winter and we just happened by on the day
they decided they could no longer tolerate their neighbors? The early
spring timing and pairwise struggle suggests that it wasn't just parents
harassing their offspring to disperse from their natal territory...

Natural history interpretation is always such a rich diet for discerning
mental palates...
Keep up the good observations, food for thought!

Dan Froehlich
Poulsbo, WA

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Martha Jordan <mj.cygnus at gmail.com>
To: Tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2019 10:38:40 -0700
Subject: [Tweeters] Bald eagle crashes into Puget Sound
Today while riding on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry (about 1/4 mile offshore
heading west) my friend witnessed two bald eagles have an aerial contact
scuffle. Both were spinning and flapping. A third bald eagle came by and
strafed the fighting duo. One of the scufflers let go and fell into the
water from about 30 feet up. The other two eagles took off. As she
watched, the now water logged eagle took more than a minute or so before it
was able to get up enough energy to once again become airborne. She was not
sure it was going to make it as it was struggling in the water as the ferry
moved along.
Have any of you seen this behavior off shore before? I know they fight
and can drop into the water or crash on land. Thankfully the eagle was able
to get off the water and fly.

Martha Jordan
Everett, WA
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