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Those Fish Stealing Eagles!

Jan 5, 2008
The morning was slightly overcast with marshmallow clouds hovering over the lake as we made our way to one of our favorite fishing holes. The fish were still on the beds in only couple of feet of water and if you dangled a minnow anywhere near them, you could pull up a big slab crappie almost as soon as you threw the bait into the water.

We were on Jessup Lake in central Florida, about twenty minutes from Orlando in very early spring. Nature had sprinkled the surrounding shoreline with bouquets of wild flowers of every imaginable shade of pinks, whites and reds, as shrubs and trees changed from winter coats to springtime plumage.

We'd only been fishing for a couple of hours and had a nice string of fish that would go in the freezer after we'd gotten back to the dock and cleaned them. Another one had just pulled my bobber under the water when I saw a large bird dive out of the sky and hover about twenty feet above the water, just a good casting distance from me!

Having seen them before on this lake, I knew I was watching an osprey tracking breakfast, or maybe lunch. As I pulled the crappie into the boat the bird dropped feet first into the lake and immediately came up with a fish that looked larger than his captor; though ospreys usually can lift and fly with an object only half of their weight.

While I was sitting in the boat gawking at this awesome sight, two other slightly larger birds soared out of the clouds and dove at the osprey as he headed for shore with his catch. Before I realized what was happening, one of the birds dove at the osprey as if was trying to knock him out of the sky! I was witnessing an aerial battle between two young eagles and the osprey for possession of the fish!

They'd obviously found that harassing the osprey to the point where he dropped the fish was a lot easier than catching the fish themselves. I guess stealing is learned at an early age in the wild, maybe even in civilization.

By the coloring of the eagles I guessed they were between one and two years old. Young eagles don't develop the white head and feet until their fourth to fifth year; these were a mottled black and gray color. Both were a little larger than the osprey, despite their youth.

Adult eagles are larger than the osprey, having a wing span of 6 to 8 feet, while the osprey is smaller, about 4 to 6 feet. Both however have similar lifestyles. Each species catches fish the same way, diving toward their prey and then plunging into the water feet first, grabbing the fish with their talons. Both mate for life, only taking another mate if their current companion dies.

Eagles' builds their nests high atop trees, living or dead, while ospreys prefer nesting in dead trees so leaves won't get in their way when they return to their nests. Both bird's nests are between 5 feet and 10 feet in diameter.

As I was watching one of the young eagles soared high into the air and dove straight at the osprey as he struggled to carry the fish to the shore. As soon as the first bird flew away, the other eagle shot from high above the heavily laden bird and came so close to it they almost collided, causing the osprey to drop the fish near the bank of the lake!

Immediately the other young eagle snatched the fish off the ground and flew away, dropping it onto a fork in the tree where the mother waited. The osprey was not about to try and recover his stolen property!

I always look forward to going to Lake Jessup because I always witness things I can't see anywhere else, like alligators by the thousands!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
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