Tail Feathers

When the wolves kill an elk or bison in Yellowstone, many other birds and animals benefit too.  Generally within an hour of the prey’s death, ravens have discovered it and other scavengers are soon to follow. They all try to find a way to get their share.

Last March I was watching the parade of scavengers at a kill site, waiting for the main attraction (wolves) to return.  As I watched I saw something pretty remarkable.  A bald eagle had flown to the carcass, grabbed a chunk and retreated to a hillside.  Within minutes there were magpies and ravens all around the eagle.  First, a magpie made a daring move to distract the eagle from its meal – it pulled on his tail feathers:

The eagle ignored the magpie, you can see the eagle working on his morsel between his feet and his beak. But then a raven stepped in to play the same dangerous  game:

You can just see the red meat between the other two ravens.

It did not take long for the eagle to turn on the raven who was pestering him.  Unfortunately for the eagle, the ravens kept it up.

Eventually the eagle flew away, leaving at least one successful raven behind (see the meat in the raven’s mouth?)

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