We saw two eagles fighting in flight,
Fighting in flight over a fish.
There were thousands of fish in the river below,
Thousands of shad and herring up from the sea.
But these two eagles fought over one — a shad, we think.
A fight over a shad when there was plenty of shad.
So we stood and watched eagles in a dogfight.
One of them squeezed the shad in his talons;
The silvery fish shimmered and shook in the talons.
The eagle had the shad good, and flew to a sycamore branch.
The other swooped in for the steal — or so we figured.
We figured that’s what he wanted, the other bird’s prey.
We figured he was either bully or moocher, or both.
Because it made no sense to fight over fish with a thousand below.
Or maybe, we figured, something else sparked this conflict.
Maybe the invading eagle wanted more space.
Maybe he had designs imperial.
Maybe he wanted to rule air and land like a czar.
And there I go, assigning to a great bird the traits of dictators.
There I go, committing anthropomorphism.
But human experience — Grozny, Aleppo, Mariupol — does that.
It puts the evil idea in your head, that all animals make war,
When it’s just two eagles fighting over fish,
Causing no collateral damage, harming no bystanders,
Hurting no one but the fish and each other.

Photos by Jerry Jackson of The Baltimore Sun.

3 thoughts on “Eagles fighting over fish

  1. Awesome post, Dan. I grew up fishing below the Conowingo dam.
    Perhaps the attacker underestimated the tenacity of the eagle who endured the hunt,and risked injury by spearing the silvery prey. The attacker can’t understand why the intimidation doesn’t work now when it’s worked so many times before. The successful fishing eagle also has seen it before. He’s had his hard efforts stolen by this bird of opportunity. He’s seen eagles injured by the attacker. So why doesn’t he use the same bully strategy for food? He’s honed his skills by making thousands of repetitive dives into the cold dark river. He’s learned that angling his approach prevents discovery until it’s too late for the fish. The clouds also help camouflage the ambush. He’s learned patience . He’s learned to preserve his energy. Over time, he’s learned consistent efforts will reign. When his successful fishing is discovered by this attacking bird, he knows he may have to release the fatal fish. But he will return after the conflict, knowing where he dropped it . Most importantly he defends his food to be used for his family nest.

    Liked by 1 person

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