How to Annoy an Eagle


That seems an apt descriptor for a Bald Eagle. Lacking any natural predators, these powerful birds have little to fear in our placid Lake Allegan neighborhood.

That doesn’t mean they’re not wary. We’ve learned not to dash to the window when an eagle lands in one of our trees. They notice the tiniest motion and move on. You can picture me tiptoeing across the room like a Great Blue Heron, trying to sneak to my camera unnoticed. If I succeed, I shoot video through the glass, lest I make noise moving the sliding glass door.

A few weeks ago, an eagle stopped by. True to form, it saw my careful approach and bolted. But the creature didn’t go far. It took a short hop to the aptly named Eagle Island opposite our home. He was far enough away that he didn’t care if I stepped out of the house, but (barely) in range to capture some decent video.

The entertainment started when I realized he wasn’t the only bird perched on an island branch.

A male Red-winged Blackbird was singing near the eagle. I couldn’t hear him because the distance was great and the birds surrounding me were chirping loudly. But I could see him bouncing to the beat of ‘oaka-leee… oak-a-leee.’ His whole body bobbed with every chorus.

The eagle seemed to take note as well, and for thirty minutes I watched him give what you might call sidelong glances to his red-winged neighbor.

Was the eagle bothered by the blackbird? Was the blackbird intent on antagonizing the eagle? Take a look at what happened after about a half-hour of their encounter.

The sounds my microphone picked up were the ones near me, which is a shame because  I could hear the eagle’s complaint in the distance. You can listen to his racket here.  His response to the blackbird sounded like the first of the three recordings you’ll find on that National Park Service web page.

What do you suppose prompted the blackbird to launch his aerial assault?

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