Mature eagle enjoys an eye-level hang-out
North Islanders are well used to seeing eagles on their doorsteps, but one indifferent raptor has taken this a little more literally than usual.
Port Hardy resident Darren Wilson was surprised last week when he came outside to feed his cat and saw the full-grown bird perched on a fence mere feet from his front door.
When it became clear that the eagle was unperturbed and determined to stay put, Wilson got his camera, soon followed by his neighbours and, as word spread, a steady stream of visitors wanting to grab a snap with the bird.
The bird calmed speculation that it was injured by flying off after a few hours, but apparently enjoyed – or was at least unfazed by – all the attention since it returned to the same spot the next morning.
“It seemed healthy,” said Wilson. “It would just come hang out for a couple of hours.”
As the eagle kept returning in the following days, more people came by to witness the spectacle and pose for photos or videos. Wilson estimated forty visitors in a single day last week.
Theories abounded on the raptor’s unusual behaviour, with speculation that perhaps the bird had been released from captivity since it was comfortable around people or possibly it just had one eye on the cat’s food bowl and was waiting for an opening.
“It’s really hard to say what’s going on without getting hands-on with it,” said Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society manager Maj Birch, who confirmed that she had received several calls and photos of the bird.
Since the bird was capable of flight and therefore apparently uninjured, Birch said that this would normally be a case that the society would intervene in although she did caution people to keep their distance.
She pointed out that January was typically a lean month for eagles and her speculation was that hunger was a factor in the bird’s behaviour.
“When they’re hungry they’ll take more risks,” said Birch. “There is a danger in feeding them though: they lose their fear of humans.”
The bird returned all week but has kept its distance since Tuesday when Wilson’s neighbour saw children throwing rocks at the bird. Birch had a question for the stone throwers: “If you were hungry how would you like someone throwing rocks at you? It’s just trying to survive,” adding that everyone should respect wildlife.
“It didn’t seem right,” said Wilson of the kids’ actions. “Maybe it’ll work out for the best. They (eagles) shouldn’t get too comfortable around people.”
Wilson said he still sees the bird in the neighbourhood but it has kept it’s distance.
“It was nice to have it around for the week or so,” he said.