The Eagle's Tale

By staff November 1, 2002

The eagle sat in her eyrie, a brush pile atop a dead cypress, and scanned the surface of the lake that lapped close to the foot of the tree. Several hundred yards offshore, a small fish rose to investigate a floating insect.

It lingered, and that was its undoing. An osprey saw it, and snatched it up. As the osprey wheeled and climbed with the wriggling fish, the eagle silently took flight. Sensing the eagle an instant before it struck, the osprey snap-rolled and presented his immense talons-just what the eagle wanted. With a swipe of her claws, she tore the fish away. Unhurt, the osprey retired to a nearby tree, while his mate circled overhead, cheeping incessantly.

Like other eagles, she was a capable predator, who found it easier-and more satisfying-to occasionally steal a meal rather than catch it herself. She took the tattered fish back to the eyrie that had been her home for many years.

The nest was palatial, over three yards across. She and her mate had raised six broods there, one or two chicks per clutch. Blessed with exceptional parents, most survived, and once each eaglet learned to hunt, it wandered away to establish a new range.

One day her mate brought home the remains of a blue-winged teal he'd snatched from a gang of vultures. He ingested three pellets of lead shot buried in the little duck's breast, sickened and eventually died. For the first time in her life, the eagle was alone.

Unlike her Northern counterparts, she wasn't migratory. Neither were the ospreys, whose appearance on the far shore coincided with the death of her mate. She tolerated their presence, perceiving them as an ongoing opportunity rather than a threat. The sky was hers by right-as long as they remembered that, they could stay.

Summer gave way to fall and the rain-swollen lake subsided. Fish were plentiful and indiscreet. One morning she heard the ospreys crying furiously; another eagle, a vigorous young male, had come to torment them. A year ago, with her blessing, her mate would have driven him off. Now she will make him welcome, sharing the sky and all that it contains.

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