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Bald eagles fight in the sky over Mallard duck

Living the Wild Life

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

While looking for snow geese last week I didn’t find any but in the Osgood area along 105 West in Bonneville County, I found thousands and thousands of ducks, mostly mallards with a few Northern pintails mixed in. I noticed seven eagles perched on irrigation pivots in the fields surrounding the ponds created by the melting snows.

As I was observing the ducks leaving the ponds to head to the stubble to feed, a Prairie falcon flew past me, nailing an emerald-headed drake mallard flying by.

Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

While I was trying to get my camera in shooting position, an immature Bald eagle stole the duck but had trouble getting air-borne. The dirty headed youngster couldn’t keep quiet as he bragged about his good fortune.

Like most braggers when thieves are near, company showed up in a hurry. Two other immatures were quick to come for a quick meal; then an adult from the south came while an immature from the north joined in the fray. Soon there were six immatures and two adults battling over the duck carcass that soon disappeared as each eagle grabbed a bite whenever it got close enough to tear off.

Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

With three pieces left; two legs and the emerald green head attached to the neck bone, two immatures took off, fighting over one leg while two more chased each other for the other leg bone. When an immature took off with the head, both adults gave chase followed by another immature.

“Honey, I want that emerald!” I imagined the female adult yelled at her mate. It is near breeding time and one of the courtship displays for eagles is that the male will offer sticks and other goodies to his lifetime mate. It is kind of a ring ceremony.

I followed the four with the beautiful green head glistening in the bright sun light as the male finally caught up with the head-bearer and forced it to be dropped. As it dropped the other immature eagle grabbed it in mid-air and the male went after it again. Each time one of the immatures was forced to drop the coveted piece of worthless bone, the other one would snatch it before in hit the ground. This happened seven times as the female seemed uninterested in aggressively going after the morsel when one of the younger eagles dropped it.

Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

After about 15 minutes of these aerial displays, the male finally captured the prized jewel, passed it to the female who quickly flew to the ground with it, examined it and finding it was only feathers and bones, left it and flew to a power pole near me.

While the sorties were happening above the ponds, all the ducks had quit feeding in the fields and had tried to get as far out in the ponds as far as they could. They know that eagles hate to get their feet wet. Once the eagles were perched on the pivots, the ducks flew back out and began feeding.

Again I imagined that I heard the thoughts of an eagle – the female this time. “With all of these thousands of ducks around one should die of old age so that lazy bum of mine could get me an emerald worth something!”

Want to find some wildlife action and hear what the ducks, swans, eagles and now snow geese have to say – head out to the Osgood, Market Lake, Mud Lake and Camus National Wildlife areas. You may not hear what I heard, but you will hear a lot. You may even see how hard a male has to work to satisfy the desires of his significant other.

Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

MIGRATIONS HAVE BEGUN

A few large flocks of snow geese have been seen flying over the area with a few of them stopping but we still have not seen the huge flocks feeding in the fields yet. The sandhill cranes have showed up that their courtship displays can be very humorous.

The snow must still be deep in Island Park and Moody as we have seen 11 different Great gray owls in the last two weeks. Look for them in the evening and early morning near thick cover along roads sitting on fence posts.

  • March 20 – Long-billed curlews show up and Pintails, Mallards and Teal ducks show up in huge flocks.
  • March 22 – Tree swallows start showing up to stake out their nesting spots.
  • March 25 – Peregrine falcons return to Camas NWR.
  • March 30 – Duck numbers peak on ponds in the Osgood area, Mud Lake, Market Lake and Camas.

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