OK, so this was amazing. We were out walking around Devil’s Lake last evening, when we came across a young heron who was catching minnows along the south shore beach. It was a great photo opportunity. The heron stayed by us for some time before flying off to land in the far northern corner of the south shore beach area. That’s when all “nature” broke loose!
The heron landed right next to an Osprey who was eating along the beach. Ospreys are predators, screaming fast hunters who spy fish from the air, then dive in for the catch before carrying a fish off into a nest or other high area to eat. It was rare to see an osprey on the ground. Well, the Osprey was not too happy that the heron landed so close and started telling the heron off in it’s eagle-like voice. Then suddenly…
Out of nowhere a Bald Eagle slammed down on top of the osprey! The heron took flight and just got the heck out of there! The battle ensued with the osprey backing off into the water, while the eagle continued to pounce and claw at the smaller bird.
Finally the osprey seemed to recover and get out from under the eagles furious attack. The osprey stood back and put its wings out in a threat display. The Bald Eagle seemed a bit taken aback by the scrappy little hawk. It was a not going to be the easy fight it had assumed. We had a stand off.
After a few moments frozen in a staring contest, both birds turned away from each other and lifted out of the water to fly in opposite directions.
This is not the first time we’ve seen a bald eagle attack an osprey at Devil’s Lake State Park. Once we saw an eagle attack an osprey in the air. When the osprey dropped it’s fish, the eagle swooped down to grab it out of the air before flying off. Bald eagles can be bullies. In fact, Ben Franklin prefered the wild turkey over the Bald eagle as our national symbol. He wrote in a letter in 1784 that a Bald Eagle was “a bird of bad moral character” that “does not get his living honestly.” He also wrote
“You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk [Osprey]; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”
Hey, we love our Bald Eagles, but yeah sometimes they’re just big bullies!!
On a side note, fall is the perfect time to see wildlife at Devil’s Lake State Park. Now that most of the people are gone, Bald Eagles, osprey, heron, geese and other critters are certainly more visible than any other time of the year. The fall migration will start bringing a variety of ducks and birds for a short time as well. In October turkey vultures from all over the state will be gathering at the park before heading south for the winter. During the gathering it’s possible to see hundreds of vultures in the air at one time. It’s an amazing sight and not to be missed! Remember, we’ll post their arrival on Facebook & twitter as well.