Adult Bald Eagle Eating A Fish In Flight

At first glance veteran readers of Feathered Photography may think you’ve seen these images before. Believe me, you haven’t.

Back in February of 2011 I was fortunate enough to capture a 20 image sequence of an adult Bald Eagle eating a carp in midair at Farmington Bay WMA. In the past I’ve posted some of those images on my blog but since then I’ve largely ignored the rest. Last night I stumbled across them again and decided that some of the others deserved to see the light of day. None of these photos have ever been seen by anyone but me.

All images are presented in the order they were taken.

 

1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

On this day competition between eagles for the few available fish was fierce so there was a lot of squabbling on the ice. And to make things worse the gulls were harassing the eagles mercilessly for every little morsel of fish so this adult took off with its fish with the obvious intention of eating it in flight in order to avoid its tormentors. As it began to fly by me the eagle took its first bite out of the carp which caused scales and other fish debris to fall by the wayside.

 

 

1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The eagle had a firm grip on the fish with its left foot but it struggled a little with the right one and during the process of grasping it with that foot I got a good look at those impressively large, sharp and deeply curved talons.

 

 

1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The head of the fish was bony and tough so I had enough time to take several photos as it tried to take that first bite.

 

 

1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

There was a pesky gull hot on the tail of the eagle during the entire series of images which added to the confusion and excitement. I wish we could see the eagle’s eye through the flight feathers but that flash of the yellow bill will have to suffice.

 

 

1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This gull and others were just plain nasty. They were noisy and aggressive, to the point that I actually saw gulls biting the tails of eagles in flight, twice!

I actually learned something new while preparing this post of images I hadn’t looked at carefully before. For almost eight years now I’ve always assumed that this eagle’s first bite took out the eye of the fish (and I’d made that claim on two previous posts). I’d read somewhere that they often eat the eye first and it looked to me like that was exactly what it was doing. But this time I decided to confirm it…

 

 

so I cropped in heavily on the previous image and lo and behold the eye was still there. The eagle had only bitten off the front of the head and left the eye behind. Yet another example of the perils of making assumptions!

I’m glad I made the effort to go back and review these images and post some of them that are new to my blog but there’s no question that many of the best shots in the 20+ photo series are those I’ve posted previously. If you’ve never seen them before it might be worth your time to click this link and check them out. They’re some of my favorites of all time.

Ron

 

 

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