One of our crew duties at the Raptor Center is that as soon we get in on Tuesday morning we go out to all of the education bird mews and make sure everyone is upright and healthy. We note where they are perched, and if there is any leftover food. We also have to pick it up. It's worse in summer when it's still juicy, but with our single digit temps, it's pretty easy to do right now. Often times, the birds will skin whatever prey we give them, especially rat and we collect that to keep their area clean.
Here we have Othello who has a rather large rat skin on his mailbox perch. When we go in to get food, we always wear leather gloves--not the black ones we use for handling birds for programs, but a big blue welder's glove and a tan glove. The welder's glove acts as a shield in case any of the birds are more ready for the food than you expect. The tan one is not as thick, allows some protection but is much easier to feel what you have in your hand. I stepped into Othello's mew and he gave his usual squeaky grunts. I approached the perch and squatted to get the skin and he came right at me! I put out my welder's glove hand and he grabbed it and bounced off. I stepped back and he ran...no flew, ran (it's kind of like watching a feathered weeble when the run--not very majestic) right at me and made a half-hearted attempt for my shoes.
I decided to leave in the rat skin. He'd be going out later on program and it would be just easier to do it then.
It's tough to say why some days an eagle will sit idly by while you collect their leftovers and other days they are incredibly territorial. It could have been that the sudden cold snap make the bird feel like every scrap of food counts. Something instinctual telling the bird to not let anyone take a scrap because times for survival in this cold and short daylight hours are hard and you need everything. It could have been that I was wearing ear muffs giving my head a different shape from what the birds are used to. There are a couple of great-horned owls that will not let me get them if I have ear muffs on. It's all part of what makes your days volunteering there a little more exciting.
The house sparrows were aggressively going for the rat leftovers again (in a different bald eagle cage, not Othello's). This particular eagle in this mew is on a tether and the house sparrows have taken to dragging the rat bits out of the reach of her tether. Smart, smart birds.