The Morning Hunter

This morning I spotted a bald eagle gliding across the marsh and I kept watching him as he started swooping low over the pond. Even though earlier I had seen a raft of mixed ducks out in the pond, I gave little thought to them as I assumed the eagle was looking for a fish. But when the eagle did a strafing run over the ducks I quickly identified his target…

Bald eagles will often hover and dive down toward ducks scattering them and causing them to submerge themselves under the water, providing what the ducks hope will be safety from attack. But…they can’t stay under very long and the eagle knows this quite well.

The eagle’s tactic here is to isolate an individual from the group and try to time a dive exactly right to hit the water just as the hapless bird surfaces. After a couple of failed attempts, the bald eagle splashed down and managed to pluck itself out a nice plump coot for breakfast. The intrepid hunter kept a tight grip on the coot as it flew back out toward the salt marsh with it’s prize! 

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

Bald Eagle Grabs Coot

70 thoughts on “The Morning Hunter

    • I was just happy to see the eagle working for a living for a change. Normally they have been stealing fish from ospreys rather then getting their own food.
      Thanks so much for looking!

    • Thanks Deb, and yes I feel the same way. I bet that poor coot was alive the entire time it was being carried off and did not have a good morning at all. But so it goes in nature.

    • Yeah my money would have been on fish especially since there were several ospreys out all morning fishing. So I thought the eagle would be likely to just steal one from an osprey, but guess it felt ambitions today. Or it really wanted a coot.

    • Yeah I know and it’s funny how we rarely feel all that bad for the fish. After the eagle left there were ospreys, herons, and egrets all catching fish but I never once went awwww…poor little fishy.

  1. We used to see hawks come snatch smaller birds out of a large walnut tree at a previous house. Really something. This sequence is gorgeous. I love top of the chain predators, especially in action. Fabulous. That’s nature. Probably a bit more filling, and fatty perhaps, than a fish.

    • Yes I suspect it was after a higher calorie, higher fat meal. It got cold over night and is supposed to get really cold tomorrow, so perhaps our eagle friend was looking to pack on a few extra ounces.
      Thanks very much for checking these out, I appreciate it.

  2. I guess I have under-rated them as hunters, especially of birds. Who knew Bald Eagles could snag a duck or coot for dinner? This is just an amazing sequence of photos, with sharp images every time!

  3. Phil, thanks for this absolutely outstanding series of photos. The eagle demonstrated its hunting skill this time, instead of just robbing from the osprey.

    • Yes nature can indeed be tough out there, one minute the coot is swimming around the next he is being flown off with those skyhooks stuck in his back. Thanks for checking out these photos Amy.

  4. I enjoy all of your photographs so much. The eagle with duck series is incredible!! We’ll be camping at Huntington Beach SP this coming week – can’t wait.

  5. Perfect!! Amazing shots. I’m sure it was amazing in person. All so clear. I probably would have been so excited that I would have missed most of it. To most people here a coot is just a fish on top of water with feathers.

    • I was plenty excited and also very cold. My fingers didn’t want to work and my camera didn’t feel like doing much either. I was happy I ended up with what I got considering all that.
      Thanks for checking these out.

  6. Yikes, I had no idea Bald Eagles went after ducks and coots! Was the coot still alive? I can’t tell if it’s trying to flap with its wings or if the wings are just dangling. Amazing action shots.

    • I think it likely was still alive, but I don’t think it was flapping it wings they were sort of just dangling there. That sadly, was one very unlucky coot.
      Thanks for checking these out!

    • Thank you Maggie and yes it was nice to see the eagle actually working for a living for a change. There were several ospreys out too and I bet they were happy to be left alone for once.

  7. Great action and clarity and a nice meal. You catch this action with such regularity ! I especially like the hover shot and survival of the fittest .Wow Phil !

    • Yes you are correct, I will find myself out there again even when it gets very cold.
      BTW it was a beautiful day today, T shirt weather, but the cold blast comes later tonight and into tomorrow. But… it’s supposed to go right back to the 60sF by Thur. and into the weekend.
      And…I saw two spoonies today! That’s the god news, they did not leave yet. The bad news is I lost the pool predicting their departure as last night. 😦 Oh well, good news/bad news right?!. 🙂

  8. That is so cool. How did it make you feel as a photographer to see that? Was it upsetting, are you used to it?

    I saw a pride of lions take down a Roan Antelope in Africa and it was thrilling to see, but sad at the same time.

    • It is exciting to see but yes I do feel bad for the poor coot. I have seen alligators take a bird and always feel sad about that as well. Funny though, I have seen hundreds of fish and crabs get caught and eaten and for some odd reason I don’t really think of them in the same way as a bird or small animal.
      Thanks for checking these out Jeff.

  9. Fabulous images! We saw something similar last summer – an eagle attacking a gull. Only in our case, it plucked the gull out of the air rather than the water, then took it to a small islet to eat it and then flew off, holding it between its talons, when we got too close in our kayaks. I did a post about it on my blog, if you’re interested …though my images are nowhere near the quality of yours! Love those hovering eagle shots, they’re brilliant.

  10. Your spectacular photos provided an answer to a question that arose earlier this week about why an eagle was hanging around in an area that probably had no big fish, but did have a lot of ducks and geese. Most of us rejected the idea that an eagle would go after a duck–we were obviously wrong.

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