Monday, March 28, 2011

The eagle tax

I've become much more aware of the local animals over the last few years; what the deer are doing, which birds are around, and what they're doing, and how the animals are acting.  I've been seeing a pair of eagles recently, much more than I have in the past, and finally spotted their nest on top of a cell-phone tower about a half-mile away from my farm. 

So when I saw an eagle land on my property, near a fence, I knew that something was up.  Eagles really don't land much, unless they're eating something.  It takes quite a bit of energy to get back up into the sky, and they'd much rather side on a tree somewhere and look than actually go. 
So I spent a bit of time sneaking up on this eagle while it ate something.  I'd take a few steps every time it would duck down to take a bite, and then hide behind a bunch of grass until it took another bite.  Doing this got me within about a hundred feet of the bird.  They're pretty big. 
The eagle finally decided I'd gotten close enough and flew off.  Juvenile eagles have brown heads; the white head on this one means that it's an adult, probably one of the eagles from the nearby nest.   I lose 5-10 birds a year to eagles, and this time I wasn't sure if it had gotten one of my birds, or a wild bird. 
Turns out that it was eating a white peking duck.  If you look carefully in the photo below, at the upper right corner you can see her egg.  My guess is that she found a place she liked to nest and was sitting on the egg when the eagle killed her.  This is a different sort of kill than a coyote -- the coyote takes the whole duck to some secluded place and eats it.   Raptors tend to eat their prey in place if it's too big to lift.  Basically the eagle ate the duck liver and heart and lungs.  hadn't gotten to the breast yet. 
RIP, duck.  Hope it was quick. 


Anonymous said...

"Eagle Tax". I like that. We get that too from time to time. We had a couple of Eagles fight over a duck before it had been killed... We call her Lucky now.

They are hard to sneak up on too... Unless they are fighting over a live duck, and then at a flat run you can get to within about 30' of them before they take flight... And they are big. I am not sure what I would have done if they hadn't flown off, I don't think they bite like a goose.

Anonymous said...

I was by today when I ran my animals and the stench was unbearable. I know you have pigs and pigs smell but the amount of rotten fruit in the knee high mud that the pigs are walking in is just rank. It never has smelled like that when I have been running the dogs before and I have been doing it for years. It seems like you have ALOT of animals (pigs, cows, goats, fowl AND dogs) in a small area. It's like a population explosion has happened or something! And the dogs are in quite a small area too... well hidden but still seen. I know I'm being nosey but I worry for them. They aren't yet meat on the table, so we all are responsible to question.

Mike said...

If an eagle is killing your animals can you kill it? As you would if it were a coyote? I was wondering that recently when an eagle was circling our farm.

sheila said...

I hope they raise their young on mostly wild game. Otherwise, it's going to get expensive for you if the farm has to supply the meals.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who is further north, on the Skagit, is having more and more of a problem with bald eagles getting her lambs. She'll have 6 or 8 birds sitting in her pasture in the morning, waiting for her to let sheep out of the barn. And now they've figured out how to go IN the barn to snag lambs. :-[ We have a few eagles in our valley, and I watch them with worry, praying they never figure out the lamb thing...

Bruce King said...

adayln: Eagles have big claws and a pretty strong beak. I wouldn't want to mess with one. They are pretty shy though, so shooing one off isn't too hard. The goose weapon I feear the most is wing strikes. They can smack you pretty hard with their wing and it HURTS.

Mike: I believe they're protected by federal law, even if they're killing your livestock. The only people that hunt them are native americans, based on their treaty rights. Native americans also hunt in the national parks, preserves and reserves as well. They pretty much ignore the game laws in this state.

Sheila: During nesting season, while they're raising their young they seem to be more attentive to the domestic birds. No salmon to eat. In the summer/fall/winter they've got other sources of food. Means I have to keep a close eye on my birds, closer than usual.

Collie: I've been keeping my lambs penned for just that reason. Do not want the eagles to learn that lamb is tasty. Plus the grass isn't growing all that well right now, so it's not much of a loss.