Posted by: atowhee | June 18, 2019

ALPHA

There is a natural fact that becomes evident on the dry western slopes of the Cascades.  From there the fact pertains across thousands of miles eastward and southward.  Across grasslands, sagebrush steppe, arid brushlands and unforested valleys that fact is the alpha predator, the Golden Eagle.
Many are the creatures that fear the eagle and some of those will take the chance to harass or mob the bird.  The Golden Eagle can soar easily on sunny days when the hot air rises to produce thermals.  His eyes can see for miles, his large wings carry him across open miles in search of prey.  I often wonder: does he ever bother to savor the view from up there? Does he enjoy the feel of soft warm air riffling across his stiff feathers, perhaps tickling a bit the taut muscles that control flight and tail feathers so adeptly, so precisely?

One thing I know for sure, he often soars with others.  Maybe other eagles, often some buteos and a scad of hopeful ravens, around to see what is killed and what is left behind. And it is not rare to find another raptor or even a swallow that decides to dive onto the back of the eagle in flight.  Yet I have not seen actual contact by the attacker.  There is a perfectly good explanation.  No bird whose training or instinct is intact could be ignorant of two corollary facts.  1) The eagle is neither swift in changing flight direction, thus easy to attack, or is it very fast in a straight line unless diving; 2) The talons of this bird can and do bring agony and death to those they crush.

I once watched a testosterone-crazed male Osprey attack a Golden Eagle that soared too near the Ospreys’ nest, according to the attacking male.  He made three dives, accompanied by his high-p;itc screams.  Each time as he neared the eagle’s back, the eagle simply rolled over, his talons raised toward, sky, osprey and a certain osprey death.  Three times the Osprey had to veer away at the last instant to avoid those talons.  Last week at Malheur, near the Princeton Bluff, we saw the same pattern.  Attack by smaller raptor, eagle flipping over to offer a pair of ready talons to the oncoming attacker.  This time it was a Swainson’s Hawk. It is the third image below that shows the eagle flying belly up:

Below, a Red-tail peacefully perched on a utility pole, staying out of the fray:


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.


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