Eagles Prove More Torrid Than Average Soap Opera

Forget reading about the whole golfing scandal right now. If you want some sordid and violent love affairs, check out this story from TampaBay.com about a bald eagle threesome gone horrifically violent: "He's everything she's ever wanted in a man: distinguished, a caretaker, a homeowner.

She'll do anything to get him, even if that means taking out his better half. That's exactly what the hussy tried to do Saturday, authorities said Tuesday.

No, this isn't a recap of Fatal Attraction, the famous 1987 movie starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. And the characters aren't people. This love triangle is playing out in the trees above a Palm Harbor neighborhood. The parties involved? Bald eagles.

According to officials at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland — eaglespeak for the hospital — the man-stealing flirt held the other bird down, plucked her feathers and almost killed her. The injured eagle weighed all of 9 pounds.

"Her chest looks like a Thanksgiving turkey — completely bare," said Lynda White, coordinator of the center's EagleWatch program. "She is beat up. She is just a mess."

No one knows if the male eagle was around at the time of the fight, but typically, mates don't come to one another's rescue, she said.

It all happened Saturday afternoon in the back yard of Russ and Becky Fernandes.

"My dog was barking like crazy out back," Russ Fernandes said. "I went out and looked. The eagle was out on the ground."

Bloodied and weak, she stood outside the lanai until he opened the screen door. Then she stumbled inside and into the pool.

Reports of eagle fights increase this time of year. Nesting season, which started Oct. 1, doesn't end until May 15. During that time, the birds jockey for places to live. In Pinellas County, where development has paved over habitats as the eagle population has soared, the problem is even more acute.

"The birds in Pinellas are suffering from loss of habitat," White said. "That's why you have so many eagles there nesting on cell towers. It's crazy compared to the rest of the state. We have seen a steady increase in territory fights as population increases and territory decreases and I think that this is a classic example of that."

The offending eagle is still on the lam and has shown no signs of remorse. Three times since Saturday's nearly fatal fight, she has tried to move into the injured eagle's home, said Barb Walker, a local volunteer with the Audubon of Florida EagleWatch program and one of the first people Fernandes called.

So far, the male eagle has rebuffed the young lady's advances. And now, they're going at it, too. Despite the domestic squabbling, she still wants him.

"She tries to fly to the nest and he won't let her in," Walker said. "He's fighting her off and chasing her out of the natal territory. It's a real drama playing out over there."

Drama seems to follow the injured eagle. Someone shot her in January 1996, fractured her right ulna and punctured her femur. She was so badly injured that the Audubon center kept her for two years while she recuperated and regained her strength. The center released her 6 miles northwest of Brooksville on Feb. 24, 1998."

You can read the full story and see a photo here of the injured female eagle.  I have mixed feelings about human aid in this situation.  I'll admit that I'd be the first one to run an injured eagle in my backyard to The Raptor Center, however when it comes to territory battles--should humans step in?

It could be argued that Florida has a healthy eagle population and that the birds need to work out territory on their own.  We've had some epic peregrine battles over territory here in the Twin Cites.  One notable one happened at the Colonnade Building and lasted for two and a half hours as two females fought over a male, nest and eggs.  No one stepped in, even when The Raptor Center was called, researchers stepped back and watched the birds duke it out--to the death as they would out in the middle of nowhere. Only one ultimately survived that battle.

As I said, I'm torn, I'm not going to leave an injured eagle alone in my yard, but you do wonder about the life of this bird and how much of it is spent in captivity recovering from injuries.