I did not take the photos of the eagle attacking the swan, they were taken by Kelly Munday. It's another one of those viral photo series filling up inboxes--almost as popular as the Golden Eagle vs Fox series. I get sent stuff like this from time to time and it rarely has the name of the photographer and each email seems to have a different location for where the photos were taken, so I like to take time to see if I can figure out the back story before posting them in the blog. And now, I present in the same vain as Bald Eagle vs Sandhill Crane a bald eagle attacking a swan--with photos taken by Kelly Munday at Waterlily Bay Resort:
Yes, that is an adult bald eagle attempting to grab and kill a fully grown swan...I believe its a trumpeter swan and not a tundra swan or mute swan. I don't see any yellow on the bill that you would see with a tundra swan or orange that you would see on a mute swan. The bill on the swan in the photos, looks big and chunky like you would see on a trumpeter.
Check out the size different between the eagle vs the swan. If it is in fact a trumpeter swan, then its average weight would be about 20 pounds, the average weight of a bald eagle would be around 10 pounds. If that eagle is able to grab and kill the swan, it will have to eat it where the swan body lands on the ground--eagles are only able to carry roughly half their weight when in flight.
Alas, there is not a lot of info to go with the photos (like was there a trumpeting sound coming from the swan, clinching its id as a trumpeter swan). The website that posted the photos just has the photographer's name (Kelly Munday) but no more about what initiated the attack, the end result, or how long it lasted.
I can only guess from the photos that like the bald eagle with the sandhill crane interaction we witnessed this past March, this swan got away. However, was the swan mortally wounded? Did the eagle continue the chase out of the view of the photographer? Again, you can see the entire photo series here and read a quote from the photographer here.
I've heard more than one birder wish that bald eagles would figure out how to attack and kill the non native (in the US) mute swan (my photo above taken at the World Series of Birding in Cape May, NJ). Mute swans are a big threat to wetlands when they show up, they destroy the vegetation native ducks need for food and nesting and have even been observed killing smaller ducks that wander into their territory. From time to time, I get email press releases asking me to protest mute swan eradication programs, but I can't get on board with it. Like starlings and house sparrows, mute swans are an introduced species and causing problems with our native wildlife--it's not pretty to watch one kill a teal. I wonder if these same groups would be just as quick to protest starling, house sparrow and rock pigeon eradication programs or they just jump on board with mute swans because they look pretty (arguably prettier than our native trumpeter swans and tundra swans)?
We saw quite a few mute swans while in Cape May. Above is a flummoxed animal control officer trying to figure out what to do with a mute swan taking refuge in a neighborhood. This younger swan had been pushed out of the nearby ponds by nesting adult mute swans. Every time it went back it was chased and even flew into some power lines. The animal control officer was trying to figure out if he should get it to a vet or try to find a pond without mute swans.
The mute swan question is not easy to answer, but if our native ducks, rails, smaller herons and other waterfowl have to compete with the mute swans for food and territory, a management system will have to be put in place to deal with them.