“The White-Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is one of the largest raptors in Southeast Asia. Its distinct image can even be found (printed) on the $10,000 Singapore note. This eagle is a good hunter and feeds mainly on fish and sea snakes.
“These magnificent eagles were often seen with fish caught in their powerful talons. Before today, I have never (personally) seen these eagles with snakes in their talons. Hence, I’m pleasantly surprised that this morning, in the space of 10 minutes, two different birds were seen successfully catching different species (presumed; based on different colour and body sizes) of sea snakes from the surface of the sea.
“The images attached show Eagle A in the sequence of diving down (top) and catching a sea snake and then flying away without much fanfare (above). Eagle A was seen soaring at great height while looking for prey. Once it found its target, it extended its feet and descended at speed by folding its wings and then gradually opening its wings to “parachute” gracefully to the target. Its aim at the targeted prey was perfect and its talons caught the snake in one strike. Immediately, it flapped its huge wings to ascend and fly away; probably to a perch to enjoy its catch.
“The hunting technique was similar for eagle B. However, there is a bit of drama for eagle B as the sea snake it caught put up a struggle and coiled itself around its leg (above). It cannot be ascertained whether the snake managed to bite the eagle. The eagle must have felt uncomfortable as the sequence of pictures captured eagle B in spectacular manoeuvres defying gravity in its attempts to disentangle the snake’s coiling around its leg. In mid-flight, the eagle was seen using its beak as well as its free leg to handle the snake (below). The eagle was even observed diving low in an attempt to free the snake’s strangle hold. After much effort, the eagle managed to subdue the snake with both talons gripping firmly onto the snake before it flew away from sight.
“Sea snakes being poisonous, I’m curious what could have happened to the eagle if it was actually bitten? Could it survive? ”
Kwong Wai Chong
27th December 2009