Wednesday, December 21, 2011


If you were here yesterday, you know I had a pretty raptoriffic encounter with a very cooperative Bald Eagle along a country road.

So if yesterday's post could be classified as sort of a "GEE WHIZ, WOWSERS, YOWZA!" kind of eagle post, today's will be a calmer, (BUT DAMN! IT WAS SO COOL!), ... ahem, look at some eagle parts.

First, thank you birders for your input, and especially, Julie Zickefoose, thank you for the gender probability.

I'm referring to this eagle as a "She" from now on, because:
A) Zick seems to think she is a girly girl.
B) I have a policy here that anything beautiful is a "she" if I am not really sure about the gender.

Before we get started, let's pause and thank Rachel Carson.
I'm pretty sure, (having grown up in the scarce bird of prey- DDT era), that we owe our eagles and ospreys to her.

Now, let's poke and prod this ea-girl.
(I can't bring myself to call her a hen)

She's big! I left the fence and road in this shot so you had some size reference. This encounter made me curious about how much an eagle might weigh ... 8 to 16 pounds ... which is quite a range if you think of it.

A little cruising about the net showed that the weight of her feathers exceeds that of her skeleton.

Her feet are big, bone-crushingly powerful, and equipped with scimitar claws that would make Raptor Red proud.

It's pretty common here on the Gulf coast to see an eagle flying overhead with a large fish struggling in those claws.

I don't think they drop many. I count as one of my luckiest moments, a day on Moses Creek in St. Johns county, when I witnessed an eagle harrass an osprey in mid-air until the osprey dropped his mullet...

...which the eagle snatched out of the air as it fell.

She can do piratical stuff like that because her talons lock down tight and the bottom of those feet have little projections called spicules (also a Porifera term, marine nerds) that help grip prey.

It wasn't cold on the day of my eagle encounter, so I am guessing the fluffy aspect here is to show me how big and bad she is.

Duly noted oh "Taloned One".

Even though I kept a pretty respectful distance, there was a moment when she thought about taking her meal elsewhere.

She picked it up.

There were a few hoppy, flappy attempts to take it somewhere else, but in the end, she decided to keep dining right where she was.

It's good to have your nostrils high on your bill if you plan to spend lots of time plunging that thing into carrion.

Her bill ... what can you say about it?

An avian Ginsu.

We all know she's got super vision, but until yesterday, I didn't realize she has two fovea in each eye.

You have one.

Go look it up.

She also has a nictitating membrane for some extra eye protection.

Just like sharks.

I left her there, feeding on that hog's head, thankful for the encounter, still not believing it worked out the way it did.

Were it not for Christmas break ... I would have been at work.

I may have to rethink this whole working thing.

What else am I missing?


Dani said...


TJ said...

Very cool. I'm jealous you got to get so close to her. My family lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on a lake and we never had any till the mid-80's-I assume due to the pesticide issues. Then we saw one in the summer. Just one. Then he brought in a girlfriend in the spring. By winter of 1990 we had TONS! So many my grandmother couldn't stock the lake with ducks and our turtle population was dwindling fast. I counted 78 in the bare trees doing some fishing in March of '90. It was so exciting to see so many. I would fish in the summers and they'd dive bomb me over and over trying to steal my catch. It sounded like a train coming at me when they'd fly by! They're HUGE! All are still there happily breeding, though I now reside in Florida. I work near the Tampa airport and see one on a runway pole occasionally. We keep binoculars on hand just in case he breezes by.

Thunder Dave said...

I like how the feathers on her legs look like a pair of pants!

Thunder Dave said...

Oh and in a few days I'll be able to give you a better opion on that whole non-work thing! ;-)

kevin said...

Great pics! I've seen plenty in the air, even had to swerve to avoid a mid-air with one, but never on the ground. But, in Alaska, they're like seagulls down here. They are everywhere!

There are some really cool Golden Eagle videos on Youtube.

Rose Petals Nursery said...

Gosh, what a day, how nice would it have been to be riding along with you and Sara. Our home out at the Bluff and here in Archer we would see the eagles flying, but never did we encounter your closeness. Fortunate man you are! Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Amazing, great shots and guess she was hungry.

robin andrea said...

Such gorgeous shots, FC. She's a beautiful creature. I'm blown away by the size of her legs. So powerful, such strength. A truly awesome bird.

Marilyn Kircus said...

Wonderful posts.

And what else are you missing? Well, if I was working for pay, I won't be showing people a falcated duck at Calusa NWR, or getting three lifers in a day on a Christmas bird count on private inside the Sutter Buttes - and that is just in the last week. I try to keep you posted on what you are missing by working in my blog.

You will definitely be one of those people who enjoys all of his life and lives until he dies.

We currently have two adult eagles and one immature harassing our ducks at Sacramento NWR but I haven't gotten any closer than to have one sail over my head just as I arrived in November. But it put up a sky full of ducks which was pretty awesome.

lisa said...

No words that can explain the best of your pictures, Just plain old WOW!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this has been interesting! While I live right in the middle of the city nowhere near rural areas, we have had a pretty good sized hawk invade the area. He decimated a pigeon in my backyard and I cannot say it was a pretty sight. When I happened to look out the back door window he was standing amid a wide radius of scattered feathers in my backyard with some kind of pigeon body part hanging from his mouth. While I love nature I pretty much freaked at this. Must read up on why hawks are or have become city dwellers. Perhaps my area neighbor Pablo has some thoughts?