How Do Eagles Eat When the Lakes are Covered in Ice?


When you see them on the ice just sitting for hours…

that is a question that comes to mind. If you watch long enough, you will notice our national symbol is a garbage picker. Yes, the eagle eats all varieties of dead carcasses and are a very lazy forager. They will also eat live rodents, birds and their favorite meal, fish, but when times are tough what do they eat? When the lake is covered in ice, they await the floaters – ducks that died from starvation to surface from below the ice. They also snatch weak live ducks too.


The Bald Eagle is an amazing flyer, one bird I can watch for hours. Today at Dunkirk Harbor, I saw an eagle fly right into a group of Canada Geese (or ducks, hard to tell at that distance) in the harbor. I watched the eagle on the ice for a long time before it decided to have fresh fish for dinner. It caught a fish, then flew toward the waterfowl resting under the docks. It was almost like it was showing off the catch. It lost the fish right in front of them though. I guess it was rather mad about the lost fish and then decided to give them a scare.


They never made the move to flee even when the eagle was flying right toward them. They stood their ground as the eagle buzzed right overhead. Had that been a group of eagles, all heck would have broken out for that dropped fish. Eagles are lazy like I mentioned and fight like crazy to steal from another eagle. Since it was grass-eating geese, no problemo…


Above are an eagle pair. These two traveled together all day, a formidable team.


The adult eagle above did a nice fly-by for me. I was the only photographer to get such a close, sharp pic all day. Most only had images like below, far away. Even though the photos are far away, they show the ice that these water fowl face each day. Check them out, the ice has a weird interest. There were 11 eagles by the time I left at 1 pm. All the pro photographers must have left for lunch. Unlike the pro photographers, I post the less than wonderful images to show my story.

Speaking of lunch, eagles are a bit of gluttons too, feasting to last them for several days. Unlike other birds with a very high metabolism that must eat many times a day, the eagle can even last weeks if need be. I am not sure how many ducks or fish it takes satisfy an eagle though.


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40 Responses to How Do Eagles Eat When the Lakes are Covered in Ice?

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    Superb shots! I especially like the ‘ordinary’ shots that tell the story. Whatever camera you have there, I envy 🙂

  2. aussiebirder says:

    Wonderful post Donna, thanks for sharing this info about your national emblem. It is vary rare for an eagle to drop its prey with their locked talons, usually only if they have to get away fast out of fear. Our Wedgie (wedge-tailed eagle)is a more private bird, and not a show off like your Baldie.

    • donna213 says:

      Thank you. This year I saw many dropped fish, but it was mostly from immature eagles, or like you mentioned, when they are fleeing. This one had no reason to fumble at the goal line.

  3. smilecalm says:

    enjoyed experience
    your eagle adventure 🙂

  4. bittster says:

    I thought for sure this was going to end with a duck dinner….

  5. Your close-up and in-flight shots of the eagles are just spectacular, Donna!
    The truth comes out about our majestic national bird, eh?;)

  6. Girl Gone Expat says:

    You got some really nice close up shots of the Bald Eagle! And what a show they put on for you with scaring the geese:) Great post!

  7. Nick Hunter says:

    Excellent post Donna. Enjoyed everything. The first and last flight shots are perfect; beautiful portraits I’m a big fan of back/side lighting for subjects like this..

  8. alesiablogs says:

    You know what I like is that you do such a good job putting us there right with you in the experience as if I was next to watching the whole thing unfold! You are a great storyteller and your pictures put it all in perspective. I love the eagle too as some of your readers mentioned! It reminds me so much of freedom yet we as humans lose sight of this very amazing symbol in our own lives and what our soldiers around the world have done for us. Many with their bags packed to go at a moments notice to defend our freedoms.

  9. alesiablogs says:

    Sorry I got off subject a bit into a more “political” topic , but Eagles do remind me so much of patriotism…the photos are things of beauty that you do so well. No one does it better Donna than you.

  10. My Heartsong says:

    Majestic shots, happy that you managed to shoot through the branches of that tree to get a fine profile shot.Also like the wider images, really tells the story.

  11. Lyle Krahn says:

    That last shot it wonderful. I guess when you look that good, you can still be a national bird even if your hunting habits may not all be the best!

  12. The in-flight shots are sharp and perfectly exposed. Great job and story. Thanks.

  13. Alisha says:

    wonderful post as always , thanks for sharing Donna

  14. Debra says:

    Eagle pictures are usually kind of boring but not yours. Wow.

    • donna213 says:

      I went to a camera club juried event to watch (not enter my work), and the judge really said some rather crass things about photos of eagles. He had more interest in a photo of a house sparrow than he did for the eagle image. I had to almost laugh out loud because I know how difficult it is to both find, then photograph an eagle. He called the eagles common, yet raved about the sparrow image. He obviously was not a birder or a gardener. Thank you for saying my eagles are not boring. I am never bored finding them.

      • Debra says:

        Most eagle pictures tend to be some tiny black line way up high in the sky. Fun to see live but as pictures they don’t capture the majesty. Your pictures give the details and that makes all the difference. haha Kind of funny but where I used to live eagles WERE more common than sparrows …

        • donna213 says:

          That is funny. We were wondering where the judge was from too. Everyone was shocked he could say some rather unflattering things about the eagle pictures. Heck, the eagle get points just for being our national emblem!

  15. A very informative and interesting post, Donna. Your photos are really great. That pair of eagles flying so close together is so stunning. How do they decide what to do up in the air, without being able to talk to one another? I often wonder about this when I see birds flying in close formation, as though they have been trained and regimented. I once saw and eagle fly down and steal a big fish from right under my Great Blue Heron’s nose. 🙂

  16. Annie says:

    Magnificent birds! They certainly are much more regal looking than the ‘respectable’ turkey that Ben Franklin suggested as our national emblem. We enjoyed watching them on the Chesapeake Bay when we lived in Virginia… and yes, they did try to steal fish from osprey!

  17. Wow these are great captures….and I did not know they could go so long between meals….they are rather dedicated to finding food in many ways….

  18. Aquileana says:

    Amazing … I love this post… very interesting & informative dear Donna… Cheers! Aquileana 😀

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