Alaska eagle survives plunge after mating dance

Apr 10, 2010 By RACHEL D'ORO , Associated Press Writer
This Sunday, April 4, 2010 picture provided by Bob Benda, a bird rescuer and biology professor at Prince William Sound Community College, shows a female eagle who fell into the snow in Valdez, Alaska. An acrobatic display of passion proved too much for a pair of eagles engaged in a mating dance in Alaska's Prince William Sound. The surviving female bird is recovering from injuries sustained when the winged couple slammed beak first into a hard snowbank in what her rescuers believe was an aerial courting ritual gone awry. The male died in the impact. (AP Photo/Bob Benda)

(AP) -- An acrobatic display of passion proved too much for a pair of eagles engaged in a mating dance over Alaska's Prince William Sound.

The female bird is recovering from an injured wing and other injuries sustained when the couple slammed beak-first into a hard snowbank in what her rescuers believe was an aerial courting ritual gone awry. The male died in the impact, which left the birds buried upside down at least two feet in the snow in the town of Valdez.

It's for eagles, who perform an elaborate ritual where they clasp talons and spiral toward the ground. This pair probably got caught up in the throes of the moment, said Bob Benda, a bird rescuer and biology professor at Prince William Sound Community College who was among those responding to the Easter Sunday crash.

"They just lose track of what they're doing and don't know how close they are to the ground," he said. "It's raging hormones or something."

But most eagles fling themselves back to reality instead of diving through a crunchy layer of snow. In this case, the male landed next to the female. If the talons had been locked, they were now separated, possibly thrust apart by the velocity of the landing.

Benda said he thought both eagles had died but then noticed the female was breathing. He helped arrange the eagle's transfer to the Anchorage-based Bird Treatment and Learning Center, where she is slowly emerging from shock.

"She is less dazed and confused every day," said Cindy Palmatier, the center's rehabilitation director. "She had this inward stare the first couple days."

Judging by the bird's initial condition, Benda is amazed it's still among the living. The eagle had no broken bones, but she was severely traumatized, almost in a zombie state.

The day being Easter, Benda took the bird home and figured he would keep her warm and comfortable in a crate in his heated garage until the end came. The next morning, she was still breathing and moving a wing, and by that night, she was being flown to Anchorage.

"I didn't see how she could survive, but now I'm so happy she did," Benda said.

At the rehabilitation center Friday, the eagle's head swiveled back and forth as she checked out some visitors. A few days earlier, she would have paid no attention to them, said Palmatier, who believes her patient suffered head trauma.

The bird also showed no interest in food, but now is eating salmon and caribou meat. And she's been taken off pain medications.

But her left wing visibly droops and Palmatier said if there is significant ligament damage, there's a chance the eagle might not be able to fly again. But it's too early to tell and there's at least a month at the center still to come.

Ultimately, Palmatier hopes the eagle can be released back to the wild in Valdez. She's not too worried about any psychological effects from the loss of the bird's partner.

"I like to say they may mate for life, but they mourn for a moment," Palmatier said. "They get over it pretty quick."

Explore further: Cats relax to the sound of music

More information: http://www.birdtlc.net/

0 shares

Related Stories

Ban on feeding eagles considered in Alaska

Dec 26, 2005

For decades, eagles have been fed in Homer, Alaska, and the eagle population has soared, as has the tourist traffic, but some hope the feeding will stop.

New eagle crowding nesting eagle pair

Feb 18, 2008

A pair of bald eagles nesting in Virginia's Norfolk Botanical Garden are used to being visited by people, but now must deal with an interloping female eagle.

Winging it – bird watching with a difference

Apr 03, 2006

If you enjoy wildlife programmes then you'll probably have seen bird's-eye view footage of flying, taken from cameras attached to birds. A research group from the University of Oxford has gone one step further: by attaching ...

Golden eagle found poisoned in Scotland

Jun 18, 2006

Police and conservationists in Scotland are investigating the poisoning of a golden eagle, one of Britain's rarest birds, The Guardian reported.

Recommended for you

Cats relax to the sound of music

55 minutes ago

According to research published today in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery by veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon and a clinic in the nearby town of Barreiro in Portugal, music is likew ...

Fruit flies crucial to basic research

2 hours ago

The world around us is full of amazing creatures. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can ...

Crete's mystery croc killed by cold snap

2 hours ago

A man-eating crocodile that became an attraction on the Greek island of Crete last year after its mysterious appearance in a lake has died, probably of cold, an official said Monday.

Hunting for living fossils in Indonesian waters

3 hours ago

The Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) was thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years and took the science world by storm in 1938 when it was re-discovered living in South Africa. This fish has ...

An elephant never forgets the way to the watering hole

5 hours ago

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B tracked the movement of elephants across the African savannah. The elephants chose the shortest distances towards watering holes, pin-pointing the lo ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2010
These birds are as common in Alaska as rats and gulls are in an open dump!
How frequently does this natural selection process normally occur in the "wild"?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.