This is the time of year when many people sit in front of TV sets to watch basketball tournaments. However, there is a more interesting rivalry going on over the skies of our Commonwealth between two very well admired birds of prey.
The Bald Eagle, symbol of our nation, has a wingspan of 70 to 90 inches. It can soar to great heights and accurately dive down to snatch a small mammal from the ground or fish out of the water. Once rare due to the use of certain chemical pesticides, the eagle has made a tremendous comeback. In some places, it is possible to see one every day.
The migratory Osprey is smaller than its rival. But, it is no less formidable when it comes to catching prey. It has talons specifically designed to hold on to the most slippery fish. Nesting platforms can be found along the Chesapeake Bay and inland waterways as well.
The Bald Eagle does have a reputation of stealing the catch of an Osprey. It will fly towards a rival and as the Osprey puts up its talons in defense, the fish falls and the eagle swoops underneath and catches the prize before it lands in the water. But, there are moments where the Bald Eagle isn't as fierce as I have witnessed one surrendering a prime perch location to an inoffensive Great Blue Heron. I have seen the same long legged wader come too close to an Osprey nest and get angrily chased away.
There is no way of predicting what these noteworthy birds will do as they will occupy the same habitat and compete for much of the same food. To see the action, turn off the TV and visit a Virginia State Park!