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When Bald Eagles compete for nesting territory, it can be serious business. Most altercations resolve after a brief exchange of posturing and threatening vocalizations, possibly followed by a short, aerial pursuit. Every once in a while though, the birds involved take things a little bit further. Such was the case with two eagles found on the ground in Tulalip, WA on April 11.

When they were found, the eagles were gripping one another strongly in their talons. The Tulalip Fish and Wildlife Agents who responded to the scene had to pry the two birds apart. Both had suffered injuries, but one eagle had definitely gotten the worst of the encounter. She is pictured below, her head feathers still stained pink with blood from several puncture wounds on her head. She is also having difficulty using her left foot, although it does not appear that any bones are broken.


The second bird fared better in the fight, suffering only a few minor cuts and abrasions.  She is already being housed in an outdoor enclosure, and may have a fairly short stay in our care.  She can be seen in the photo below.


So far, both eagles are doing well in our care.  If all continues to go well, they should be headed back to the wild soon, but we will definitely not be releasing them together!


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Kevin, thanks again for a very interesting and educational post. I would like to have been a "fly on the wall" when the wildlife agents separated the two eagles. Before reading this post, I didn't know that ever happened, although it totally makes sense given that the talons are weapons. I guess in the wild, the eagles would just stay like that until one of them died? Or maybe both of them? I'm glad the wildlife agents came along when they did. And what a story they can tell! One question -- are the white things on the healthier eagle something to keep her from flying? Thanks!

Thanks Susan. I'm glad you found the post interesting. Yes, if these two eagles had been left to their own devices, the dispute would have likely ended in the death of at least one, if not both, birds. They were pretty evenly matched (size and weight-wise) and neither was inclined to back down or retreat. The white things you see on the healthier eagle are protective pads over her carpal areas (equivalent to our wrists). Wild eagles startle easily when in a confined environment. They often attempt to take flight very quickly and they may hit their wings on the walls of the enclosure or one of the perches. These pads prevent the bird from causing herself injury in those instances.

Thanks, Kevin. And thanks, too, for all your efforts on behalf of the two eagles.

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