When a Bald Eagle captured a Canada Goose on Crescent Lake last week, Rose Park captured them both on video and you can see the face off below.

The geese have been gathering in huge groups getting ready to fly south, and at least one unfortunate bird lost its life that last week.  Local birder Cal Cuthbert shares how common this is, and whether or not you should be concerned over your small dog or cat.

"These eagles, like most birds of prey, are very opportunistic," says Cuthbert. "I'm not totally surprised to see an eagle actually pursue waterfowl or, for that part, any other kind of species of birds, as well. It could well be that there was something wrong or a little off with that particular goose. The eagle probably figured the odds of capturing it may be a little bit better than a healthy goose, but that's hard to say. Certainly, eagles will follow migrating flocks, especially this time of year and in the spring, looking for that easy prey."

CalCal Cuthbert

 He explains smaller animals are safe if there happens to be people nearby. Eagles are not big fans of human beings and tend to give much distance between us. 

"I don't think there would be any cause for concern for somebody walking their small dog anywhere on a leash," notes Cuthbert. "An eagle's not going to come in and take that. Conversely, if there is a small dog running around, say, out in the middle of Crescent Lake when it's frozen, far from any other people, an eagle would consider this very opportunistic. Same with cats; any small stray animals." 

Bald Eagle Portage Creek, March 29, 2022 (CC) 1 smBald Eagle Portage Creek, March 29, 2022 (photo by Cal Cuthbert)

He says eagles are commonly seen around the area, especially Bald Eagles. He outlines the reason their numbers have increased over the last 30-40 years.

"There are a number of Bald Eagles now actually nesting within the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie , which, of course, is a fairly big municipality," continues Cuthbert. "These eagles like to nest along major rivers. In this case, the Assiniboine River along the beach ridge of the south basin of Lake Manitoba, and other strategic places, preferably very high trees, where they have a view of their their territories. So, their numbers are coming up and they are fairly common now. Well, I'll use the term loosely -- if you see several in a day this time of year, that's that's a good sighting."

Cuthbert says eagles have communal roosts at times, and that's more common this time of year. This means you could see up to 12 to 15 eagles together and maybe 20 or more as they roost in some tall trees close to one another. 

"They're mainly on Cottonwood trees because they are the trees that attain the greatest heights and are generally close to marsh and/or river banks, or that kind of situation," continues Cuthbert. "If you're going to see an eagle in the spring or fall now around here, or like I just mentioned, there are some pairs nesting in the RM, it's going to be a Bald Eagle. The other species we have is a Golden Eagle, and it's considerably rarer as a migrant through this area. It's always a delight to see one of those guys." 

He notes the eagle population is growing, seeing as they're not being persecuted. 

"Literature suggests that pesticides --- DDT --- a number of decades ago, really negatively impacted the breeding pairs; thin egg shells and nesting success was really down," notes Cuthbert. "Once that was banned, and a greater awareness of where predators fit in the big scheme of things, their numbers have come back gradually. Now Bald Eagles are not an uncommon sighting at all, especially in the vicinity of large concentrations of waterfowl in this time of year. The same goes for spring migration." 

Cuthbert adds the Bald Eagle is a stunning bird, and adults take four years to attain their full adult plumage; the white head, white tail and feathers that are dark chocolate brown. 

"They're a very attractive bird -- a very powerful bird, if anybody's had the privilege of actually getting fairly close to one. For example, there's a road kill on the side of the road and there is an eagle that's very reluctant to fly off. If you slow down, you can see their massive build, massive talons, and their claws. They are a flying Tyrannosaurus Rex."

He notes, that if you happen to be a duck or goose, and are wounded, and you see a Bald Eagle coming down on you, Cuthbert says it's terror spelled with a "T." 

"In fact, actually, along the South Basin, Lake Manitoba Delta, I was scoping with my spotting scope across the water. I saw three Mallard Ducks. It's about this time of year. There's a little bit more ice, maybe. And they were swimming around and, suddenly, all three of them took off and panicked. So, I swung around with my binoculars and looked, and there was this Bald Eagle, about 5 feet across, above the water, heading straight for them."

Bald Eagle    Portage Creek    August 8, 2023Bald Eagle    Portage Creek    August 8, 2023 - photo by Cal Cuthbert

He notes, for such a huge bird, he was stunned at how quickly the eagle got up to speed and overtook one of the Mallards.

"The duck, realizing it was not going to outpace this eagle behind it, hit the water and dove," says Cuthbert. "The eagle actually plunged in after it, and with one foot, actually caught it. The eagle was treading water with its outspread wings. I mean, these guys have a wingspread of up to six feet. And so, the eagle was treading water, and the duck would come up on one side of the eagle, get some air and go down, and then come up from the other side because it couldn't get away."

Cuthbert recalls thinking how long the eagle would be able to swim in the water. He notes this carried on between three to five minutes.

"Then finally, the Mallard somehow got loose and swam up, came up about five feet away from the eagle, and was able to take off and fly away," notes Cuthbert. "And the eagle looked at it and figured, 'Well, enough, enough.' And it kind of flopped its way across the water, jumped on a piece of ice, shook itself, and just sat there."

He adds he wished he had a camera on hand to record it.


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