Conservationist Robert Hancock of the Hancock Wild Life Foundation was on hand with local resident Yong-ai and O.W.L Volunteer Judy Williamson, for the release of one of the combatants at Crescent Park in Surrey BC.
The happy ending came with a call from Judy Williamson of OWL(Orphaned Wildlife) with information of the recovery and impending release of the two eagles rescued a week earlier. The first release was at Kiwanis Park in South Surrey and the second to be scheduled a day or so later - in a different location.
Bald Eagles are native residents in the park area, usually perched or nesting at the top of 170 ft cedar trees. The rest of the time they can be found soaring over the residential community hunting and fishing at Crescent Beach in South Surrey B.C. This peaceful routine sometimes breaks in a struggle rarely viewed and does not always have a happy ending as in this case.
While out walking, South Surrey resident Yong Ai was alerted by a crash and loud commotion presided over by excited crows. On closer examination she was confronted with the “cause and effect” of a territorial battle by two bald eagles and their subsequent crash through the treed canopy of Crescent Park in South Surrey B.C.
The birds were locked together by their talons, seemingly oblivious of the other, were dazed as they lay on the arboreal floor unable to loose the hold each had on the other. It was a ultimately a death lock.
Yong Ai jumped into action at this point in placing a timely call to O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society) in Delta, B.C. She then stayed with the birds keeping them company and standing guard against any crows that might try to attack them while they lay helpless. Within the hour, OWL Volunteer Judy Williamson and representatives arrived and the rescue was put in motion. The birds were a bit dazed and one obviously had the “looser look” so routinely the eagles were bundled up in separate cages, to be examined at OWL headquarters, banded and then to be released when ready.
The territorial battles of these regal raptors is sometimes viewed, much like their courtship ritual, in which the male and female lock talons together in mid-air. The birds then pirouette through the air before gracefully soaring apart only to come together again to replay the ritual. In battle this release sometimes does not happen as raptor claws have an instinctive locking mechanism natural to birds of prey.
"The powerful feet of bald eagles are tipped with sharp, sickle-shaped talons, used to grasp prey — and fight. Bald eagle battle strategy plays out when, they circle each other in the air, swooping higher trying to gain an advantage over their opponent", Judy Williamson said.
"The upper bird zooms down with its talons extended, while the lower bird flips its talons up, like other raptors, eagle feet close through a ratcheting mechanism, which enables them to tightly grasp a struggling snake or rabbit. But once an eagle closes its claws, it can have a hard time opening them — and that is how the eagles can become stuck together, she explained.
"They get excited and scared and their feet start tensing up and they can't release," Then they come crashing down.
Rob Hope (senior raptor rehab specialist at Owl), said "about 600 injured bald eagles are brought to the Owl facility each year, including many that have been hurt in battles over territory. These birds share the spectrum of Bald Eagle posed one last time for his final freedom picture calamities of others that come into conflict with poisons, power lines or the human race. They currently have 40 permanent residents, 80 in rehab and 20 eagles to return shortly".
“Most eagles, while stunned, suffer only minor injuries but others are blinded or develop serious infections from their wounds”, Hope said.
Sometimes, the birds do not naturally release and are so focused on their struggle that they don't realise where they have landed; in a tree, parking lot, or residential neighbourhood.
This story ended happily as one "ruffled" Bald Eagle flew to freedom in a nearby tree to pose one last time for the cameras.
These birds and many other animals are followed and studied by the Hancock Foundation and the birds nests can be viewed here on live cameras at Hancock Wildlife