On 23rd December 2008, KN Pan posted his series of dramatic images of a White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) diving down to pick up a terrapin.
KN is of the opinion that “either it has mistaken this tortoise for a fish, or it was really hungry! As it was raining at that time, the ripples even made it harder for it to see. I am not sure if refractions… affect the bird’s hunt…”
There were two pairs of eagles fishing then. Unfortunately KN arrived 10 minutes late. He missed photographing the first eagle that missed its catch twice! It did touch the water. He reported that this eagle dived vertically down.
Although it could not be established without a doubt that the prey was a Red-Eared Terrapin, KN thinks it most probable as these are plentiful in the lake.
This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.
I watched a White-belly Sea Eagle at the Townsville Common, Queensland, five years ago work very hard to pick up and carry off a turtle from the ground. The turtle was too heavy for the bird to manage in one set of talons. The struggle was to tilt the turtle on edge with one leg raised, then simultaneously grab with the other set of talons and lift off. Given the persistence of effort, and the ample food resources in the area, I assume turtles are a favoured part of the eagles’ diet, though I have no idea how they extract them from their shells. (The turtle would almost certainly have been a long-necked species.)
Yes, it would be interesting to know how the bird gets to the meat.
Is it possible that the eagles just merely use their hooked beaks to attack the exposed areas not protected by the shell?
Or maybe these eagles have learned how to drop turtles from great heights, just like some populations of golden eagles in the Mediterranean region.
I did not manage to see this WBSE drop this terrapin as it was too far away. Most probably it still drops it onto the ground from high above.
[…] e-mail. Subscribe without commenting. E-Mail: Subscribe to comments on this post via RSS feed. …Bird Ecology Study Group White-bellied Sea Eagle catching …Comment by Kennie. Made Friday, 13 of February , 2009 at 1:13 am. I did not manage to see this WBSE […]