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Q&A

Bald eagle vs. vultures?

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I witnessed a bizarre scene on the James River in Richmond, VA, USA (1000 yards west of Mayo Bridge if you want to examine Google Maps). It was on a large rock in the middle of the river, where nearly 2 dozen vultures had congregated. There were so many I couldn't tell if they were atop some carcas, but I couldn't see one from 75 yards away.

Now here's the weird part. There was a large bald eagle that seemed to be vying for the rock. Eagle would swoop in onto the rock, look around like "Oh, s*** this is more vultures than I thought!". The vultures (at least those closest to the Eagle) would beat their wings and eventually the eagle would change position or retreat to prepare for another dive bomb. Eventually, the eagle flew away.

Some important details:

  • There was a treeline about 300 yards from the rock, and there may have been a nest there. Not likely, but possible. Assuming this was a mother w/ chicks, maybe a chick tried flying and ended up dying on a nearby rock?
  • A lady walking passed said that vultures were "all over the place" this time of year on the river. Not sure how credible of a claim this was.
  • No recent flooding, and the shad (fish) are still running in this area.
  • The vultures didn't seem "busy"; they looked like they were just hanging out waiting for something to happen.

Any hypotheses on what was going on here? In my vast 26 years of life, I've never seen anything like this.

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/11785. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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2 answers

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As bon says in the comments, the most likely explanation is that the vultures and eagle were fighting over a carcass. The answer to your question "do eagles eat carrion?" is an emphatic yes:

Unlike some other eagle species, bald eagles rarely take on evasive or dangerous prey on their own... They obtain much of their food as carrion or via a practice known as kleptoparasitism, by which they steal prey away from other predators... adults are generally more likely to hunt live prey than immature eagles, which often obtain their food from scavenging. They are not very selective about the condition or origin, whether provided by humans, other animals, auto accidents or natural causes, of a carcass's presence, but will avoid eating carrion where disturbances from humans are a regular occurrence. They will scavenge carcasses up to the size of whales, though carcasses of ungulates and large fish are seemingly preferred. Bald eagles also may sometimes feed on material scavenged or stolen from campsites and picnics, as well as garbage dumps (dump usage is habitual mainly in Alaska).

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/a/11789. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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The vultures had likely found something that the eagle also wanted in on. I come from a part of the world where Bald Eagles are everywhere, and yes, they are carrion birds that eat roadkill and found kill all the time. I actually have a picture I shot not long ago of a bald eagle picking meat off of a deer carcass. This was shot just after he chased away a bunch of ravens that had been feasting on it:

enter image description here

Vultures however are rather big, bigger than eagles are. One eagle would be rather intimidated by a large gathering of vultures, it was looking for a safe opening for it to swoop in and get a bite to eat.

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/a/11793. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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