Iced up Eagle watermarkLast weekend I came across a peculiar scene with this bald eagle literally swimming across an icy cold river using its wings as oars.  Up in the sky the distinctive call of ravens could be heard as they circled. The eagle managed to make its way to shore, climbed up a bank and rested in the snow. After several minutes it attempted to fly off but was unable to get any lift. It did this a few more times but still couldn’t get off the ground. Thinking that it had fractured one of its wings, I put my gear down and hiked into the forest to try to keep out of its sight while I approached it. I got to within about 30 feet before I ran out of any tree cover. By then the eagle had spotted me and I made a dash for it (don’t worry, I’m a trained professional and I have handled many birds of prey!). It quickly beat its wings and ran through the snow as fast as it could. Just as I was getting close enough to grab it, it managed to get out onto an ice-flow that would not support my weight. It seemed to know this because it turned and watched me as I came to a halt. Thinking that it might come back onto more stable land, I headed back into the forest to wait. About thirty minutes later, I moved into a better vantage point but it must have caught sight of me. With its powerful legs it sprang up into the air and managed to get just enough lift to take off. Thankfully, it cleared the river, flew several hundred feet and managed to perch in a nearby tree!

While I didn’t see the initial incident it is highly likely that the ravens managed to ground the eagle in the river. Once there, it became waterlogged. By resting in the powdered snow, some of the water was absorbed while the rest turned to ice. By repeatedly trying to take off, the ice crystals on the tips of the feathers would have been knocked off, which must have been just enough for it to regain flight. Thankfully no broken bones, but likely a bruised ego and a new respect for ravens! I on the other hand learned that eagles can swim and I have a new respect for their ability to tolerate frigid conditions and still survive!