I know I rag on Bald Eagles alot. I mean, they are pretty darn cool birds. It's just that they've been set so high on this artificial pedestal as the embodiment of ferocity, freedom and pride. It's not the birds' fault, though. I just find it rather amusing that the reality of these birds is often completely contrary to the image many Americans have of them.
Take the scene I observed from my office window this morning, for example. We have eagle number 1, a beautiful, fully mature adult who spots a piece of rotting fish near the shore (but in about a foot and a half of water). This bird gingerly wades out into the harbor to try to grab it, but quickly gives up, deciding that getting that wet just isn't worth a few bites of rotting fish flesh. In the meantime, a big juvenile eagle notices what the adult is doing and flies down to check it out. Here's the two birds after the adult lost interest in the fish:
So the adult flies up onto a nearby post to dry off. The juvenile, however, is now very interested in this morsel of rotting goodness. It figures a different vantage point may help solve the problem, so it hops up onto the dock:
Suddenly, this bird flops into the water, splashing around like a crazy person before hopping quickly back to the shore...with the fish in its talons. Well, this doesn't go unnoticed by other eagles for very long. Four other birds instantly appear on the scene. The juvi that scored the fish gets very flustered and starts screaming (you need Real Player to listen to that sound...couldn't find any mp3's or wav's of eagle sounds) and flapping its wings, trying like mad to hold onto its prize and gulp down a few bites before it ends up getting dogpiled by the others. Well, it manages to grab a few morsels before one of the adults bullies his way into the mess, grabs the rotten fish and flies off with the other three newcomers hot on its tail. Unfortunately, I was so entertained by all this action that I forgot to take pictures. I did get one of the "loser" flying up to a post to sulk:
All of this over a little piece of rotten salmon that some guy probably tossed over the side of his boat after he got back in the harbor. While it's true that in places where these birds don't congregate in such high numbers they tend to act a bit more "refined," but it really is hard to think of Bald Eagles as "regal" when you watch them bicker over the scraps left behind by humans nearly every single day.
But, as I said before, it's not the birds' fault. They are still pretty freakin' cool.