Thursday, January 15, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Aerial Battle

Minnesota is home to over 1300 nesting pairs of bald eagles. We have more eagles then any other state in the continental United States. During the warmer months of the year the eagles spread out and can typically be found near one of our many lakes or rivers.
During the breeding season the eagles will establish a territory, typically one to two square miles, and defend it from other eagles that dare to trespass.
During the winter months however, many eagles migrate to places where there is open water. They congregate at these spots because the open water provides them access to fish, one of their primary food sources. It is possible to find eagles not near open water during the winter as long as there is enough food for them to survive, typically this would consist of road kill deer.
While they are all grouped together, during the winter, they are much more tolerant of each other, although there seems to be very little cooperation between the individual birds. Once in a while though an altercation does take place.
Most displays like this one are actually part of the bald eagles courtship ritual. Bald eagles who are courting will often fly up very high where they will lock talons fall spinning towards the earth. Just before they hit the ground they will release and soar back up into the sky. This behavior is called cartwheeling. Coarting pairs will also sometimes chase each other, rolling and flying upside down, through the air.
It is doubtful that this pair, that I photographed in Redwing, MN back in February of last year, was courting. Eagles typically do not begin courting until they reach maturity, at around five years of age. You can tell that these birds are still pretty far from being mature because they have not yet begun to get the white head and tail that are pretty much the indication of a mature eagle. Plus since these birds appear to be about the same size that would indicate that most likely they are probably both the same sex, as with most of the raptor world females are typically bigger then males. It is most likely this was some minor aerial combat over some reason that we will never know.

38 comments:

Coastcard said...

Fabulous photography. We went 'over the sea to Skye' in the hope of seeing eagles - but they eluded us. The seals made up for it, though!

madcobug said...

Whatever the reason you got some great shots from it. Helen

Arija said...

Spectacular shots!!! A quite incredible series. What more can one say?

John Mikes said...

Do you happen to know at what winter air temps eagles tend to become inactive? I've been sitting in blinds this winter on days when the temp has ranged up to -5, but the eagles just haven't been leaving the trees. I was thinking if there's an air temp that causes them to slow down dramatically I could save myself some time and effort by waiting until things warm up before humping my stuff into the blind.

Leedra said...

My pick is the 2nd photo.

mnwxchaser said...

Colvill Park is an incredible spectacle in March...assuming this is the location where these awesome pics were taken. Quite the oddity with both being juveniles.

Anne-Sophie said...

Spectacular photos of eagles!

Darla said...

Amazing shots and with the blue sky as the backdrop, perfect!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Great information about eagles! White on the head and tail of a mature one, eh? I'll try to remember that.

Rob Ripma said...

Awesome action series. What a scene to have watched!

Steffi said...

Very beautiful photos for a SWF!I like your second photo!Have a nice weekend!

Photo Cache said...

I get they're practicing their aerial courtship maneuvers.

Very satisfying and educational post.

You certainly see more than the sky and clouds when you look up to skywatch.

imac said...

The timing of these shots are brill, nice work.

Ida said...

Great shots! :)
Outstanding!
Your whole blog is great! :)

Greyscale Territory said...

Terrific series of shots and loved the informative comments too! I had no idea that the females are bigger than the males!

Tarolino said...

What an interesting piece of information about these magnificient birds. Occaisionally I see them over here flying over the sea and I was first surprised you called those balled eagles as I did not know it took them time to aquire the white head. Absolutely amazing series of shots too.

Rocky Mtn. Girl said...

What a great post... wow... and the photos along with this reading is perfect... what terrific captures!!!!!!!
~Michele~
Mountain Retreat

Sylvia K said...

A fabulous post! The clear blue sky is gorgeous, but as a back drop for the eagles, and your text it is mindboggling!!! Thanks and have a great weekend!

Kerri said...

Beautiful series!

Rune said...

What a beautiful series of photos. Happy weekend and SkyWatch!

Rottlady of the Ozarks said...

These are some great captures! I love watching eagles fly. Happy SWF!

Barbara said...

Just spectacular captures. Those are wow shots. Smiles B

fishing guy said...

Wonderful shots of the Eagles in flight, thanks for sharing on SWF.
You made some great shots on wing.

Gaelyn said...

Excellent captures. Maybe they are immatures practicing for courtship.

Larry D said...

Really great series, well done. Happy SWF!

simply divina said...

What a nice shot. These are lovely. Thanks for sharing them.

mountain.mama said...

Incredible series of pictures, awesome photography.

floreta said...

these are amazing shots!!

vincibene said...

Fantastic pictures!

Babooshka said...

Superb again.

gnometree said...

Amazing action shots. Thanks for sharing. I love eagles, esp the Australian Wedge Tail Eagle.

The Good Life in Virginia said...

your post most interesting read about eagles...and loved the shots.
thanks for sharing with us.
have a wonderful weekend.

Mary said...

Wow...amazing photos! I didn't know that about cartwheeling...interesting to observe!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Pictures such as these helpped me get into blogging... and inspired me to try my luck in the past.... I will try to make time this weekend to re-visit and look around...

Birdfreak said...

GREAT captures! Awesome post also.

Good birding to you!

Tammie Lee said...

This is a wonderful series of shots. Thank you for the education as well. Amazing what YOU get to see when you look into the sky!

dAwN said...

great skywatch post...wonderful photos

Misty Dawn said...

WOW! I'm absolutely speechless - these photos are amazing!