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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

By R.J. Smiley

The aerial combat began when a Bald Eagle trespassed into his neighbor's territory. The guardian eagle dove from high above, gaining speed as he closed on the intruding eagle. At the last split second the intruder flipped, flying talons-up, as the guardian closed. High in the sky, 16 razor sharp talons, eight on each bird, found their mark burrowing into the flesh of the other in an "Eagle Claw" death grip. They circled like an out of control merry-go-round, as their wings flapped, each eagle struggled for supremacy. Feathers flew as they crashed, in stunned exhaustion, onto the manicured fairway of the first hole of the Marsh Nine at The Pines.

The recent video of the two Bald Eagles locked in deadly combat, has gone viral. The video tells the story of a foursome who got more than they paid for at The Pines. Nature can be cruel. Nature can be violent. But in reality, Mother Nature has a plan - survival of the fittest. On this particular day (with the help of golfers) both combatants lived to fight another day.

As I watched this captivating video, I had a flash back to my childhood days growing up in western Kansas.

As a kid, my brother and I would wait for our dad's green van to turn the corner a half a block from our home. He would leave for work early in the morning so he could get home by mid-afternoon to play with his boys. Fishing was one of our favorite activities.

With youthful anticipation, we would grab a bucket full of minnows then hurry to Big Creek before the minnows died. We would hook a lively minnow on to our "Eagle Claw" hooks attached to the cane fishing pole. With a cork bobber about 24" above the minnow, we would fish the holes in the river where the fish schooled-up.

I remembered wondering why in the world they put a picture of an eagle with a fish in its talons on a package of Eagle Claw fishhooks?

Our first trip to Minnesota on a family fishing vacation, l learned the answer. Eagle's sickle shaped talons are razor sharp and once hooked the fish never gets away.

As the population of Bald Eagles has increased, and available territories are somewhat decreased, there seems to be more fights over fishing territories. When an intruder moves into the territory of another eagle, the eagle protecting his turf fights to chase the trespasser away.

On most occasions the combatants live to fight another day. However, as in all fights, sometimes there are casualties. Eagle talons work like a ratchet in a vice grip fashion. Their gripping strength is much more powerful than the strength of opening their grip. This is obviously what happened to the pair in the sky over The Pines where the talons of one bird buried deep into the drumstick of the other.

Had it not been for help from their human friends, more than likely those two proud birds would have perished with a death grip on each other.

Breeding pairs of Bald Eagles also lock talons in mid air as a part of their mating dance. They lock their talons and set their wings and circle toward the ground. This mating ritual is much more beautiful as these huge birds circle gracefully.

When I think of the eagle's distant relatives, human beings, I believe that the population of the earth would be a lot smaller if this practice was required before mating.

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