Sad Day

This morning we got to sleep in – well, till 8 am.  That does not happen very often and we were just enjoying the sounds of the birds and the morning when all of a sudden there was a rumbling that sounded like a jet taking off.  I looked out the window in time to see all the turkey hens flying toward the barn – and high enough that they were clearing the stallion barn and even the house.  Some of them hit the house – some hit the backyard fence.  Clearly something was very wrong in the orchard.

I ran out and checked on a few of the birds that hit the fence then took the 4 wheeler out to the orchard.  I had only gone a little ways in when I saw what looked like a German Shepard hunched over a still struggling turkey hen!  As I raced toward my hen the “german shepard” took a few steps and then flew away!  It was not a dog at all but a Golden Eagle.  The immense size of this bird shocked me.  I have never seen a bird that large.

My turkey hen was alive when I reached her but she died shortly after that.  I considered leaving her for the Eagle but that would be the Eagle’s death sentence.  A wild bird that finds domestic animals easy prey is soon a dead wild animal.  I am unhappy about losing my hen but I don’t hold any animosity toward the Eagle.  I just have to find a way to deter it in the future. 

I read up on Golden Eagles this afternoon because when I first saw this bird I had no idea what it was.  I cannot even being to describe the size of it – it was huge.  And I found out that Golden Eagles eat jackrabbits and even deer and coyotes.  In some countries they are used to hunt wolves!  This is a big bird – wingspan about 7 feet across.  And they can dive at 200 mph.  Not something you want in your orchard with your turkeys.

We butchered the hen and the intensity of her injuries became apparent.  All the injuries appeared to be from talons as far as I could tell from location and “type”.  Huge tearing scars along her wings, punctures into her body cavity, tears along her breast.   I thought at first she might have died from the initial strike but unfortunatley her body provided proof that she was struggling with this the Eagle for at least a few minutes.  She had so many cuts that we decided to feed her to the dogs rather than eat her ourselves – no telling where the Eagle’s claws may have been before. 

The rest of the flock spent the day in the barn – not because we locked them up but because they were terrified to venture out into the orchard.  Everything is disrupted – and in the evening some of the older toms took to sleeping in the roosts they knew as poults rather than their current spots.  I think the flock had gotten complacent about birds of prey – Red Tailed Hawks are too small to take adult turkeys and the vultures never attacked anything.  Suddenly this large bird or prey attacks and all the turkeys are in shock.  We will see how they react tomorrow.  I hope they remain cautious – I would hate to lose more hens.

I tried to get some video of the Eagles (there were two of them) as they kept coming back during the day but never got a clear shot.  They are magnificent birds – and their size is just awe inspiring.  I hope they catch the two big annoying jackrabbits in our front field.  I hope they stay away from our lambs and turkeys and dogs – all of them are well within the size of prey for these Eagles.  I hope they take a few of the Coyotes who keep us awake at night.  I like to stay in balance with nature – and respect it.  I just hope it works out.