A sea eagle’s graceful defense of its air space; photos

A sea eagle’s graceful defense of its air space; photos

Outdoors

A sea eagle’s graceful defense of its air space; photos

Sea eagle sizes up model glider. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

When Keith Lightbody arrived Wednesday at King George Sound in Albany, Western Australia, he spotted two model gliders soaring in updrafts.

From his position on the bluff, the photographer also spotted a large juvenile white-bellied sea eagle evading a relentless pursuit by gulls.

Sea eagle closes in on model glider. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

Winds were gusting; the birds were displaying a mastery of flight.

But suddenly, the sea eagle also shifted into pursuit mode and went after the gliders, in what might have been a defense of its air space, or merely a playful exhibition.

Sea eagle opens talons during approach. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

“It had been getting chased by seagulls along Middleton Beach – that may be why it decided to do some chasing itself!” Lightbody wrote on Facebook. “The eagle actually managed to put its claws into the wing of one model and hold on long enough for the pilot to decide he was too low and should land.”

Lightbody told USA Today that pilots operating the gliders from the bluff did not set out to play cat-and-mouse with the eagle.

Sea eagle briefly clutches model glider. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

“The sea eagle was not approached by the pilots – the bird approached the model gliders,” Lightbody said via email. “The whole sequence lasted less than four minutes, and the bird then resumed soaring along the coastline.”

White-bellied sea eagles are large birds of prey with wing spans measuring to 7 feet. They reside along Australia’s shoreline and on islands, and prey largely on fish, but will also eat seabirds, small mammals, and even tortoises.

A sea eagle’s wingspan can measure 7 feet. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

Lightbody said the sea eagle seemed to be practicing attack techniques against the other glider, with its talons outstretched at times.

That was when the other pilot opted to land his aircraft.

Sea eagle practicing attack techniques. Photo: ©Keith Lightbody

“Both pilots should be complemented on their fair play,” Lightbody stated, explaining that although the model gliders were equipped with electric fold-out propellors, they were not used. “Eventually the sea eagle tired of the game and soared off higher to the west.”

–Follow Pete Thomas on Facebook and Instagram

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