As my wife and I walked through the woods in Seattle’s Discovery Park yesterday, we both had our attention focused on a large Madrona tree that grows on the edge of a steep bluff sloping down to Puget Sound. The tree is a favorite of the local Bald Eagles, and we were hoping one of the birds would be waiting there to greet us. As we neared a turn in the trail that afforded a better view of the tree, we could see that its branches were empty. We were about to move on when, as if on cue, a large female eagle appeared and landed in the tree.
The eagle must have come from the beach below. I surmised this not only from the fact that she had flown up to the tree from below, but also because she had brought a large fish head with her. The head looked like it had belonged to a salmon at one time, but now it clearly belonged to the eagle. Even the nearby crows, vocal though they were, did not seem anxious to challenge the eagle’s possession of the head at anything other than a respectful distance. The eagle paid neither the crows nor us any attention and simply set about the task of deconstructing the fish head.
The fish head had clearly been cut from its body. The human that had caught the fish had apparently discarded the head considering it to not be worth eating. The eagle disagreed. We were close enough to hear the sounds as the eagle grasped the fish head firmly in her talons and picked apart both flesh and bone with the sharp point of her beak. Bit by bit the remains of the fish disappeared down the eagle’s throat, and some of the pieces were so large and jagged I was amazed at how easily they went down.
The eagle did not linger after the last of the fish was gone. She simply turned on her perch and pushed off effortlessly into the air. After she left, we continued along the trail wondering what other encounters the day would bring.