BRIDGTON, Maine — A loon speared a bald eagle through the heart in the first recorded instance of this prey killing its predator, wildlife officials said.
The dead eagle was found last year with a puncture wound in its chest. A dead loon was also found nearby.
Because bald eagles are illegal to kill, Danielle D’Auria, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, had the bird radiographed for a bullet wound, the Bangor Daily News reported.
The radiograph showed there was no gunshot residue but researchers determined the wound was the size of a loon’s bill. The dead loon also had marks consistent with eagle talons.
“A loon’s best weapon is its dagger-like bill, and it will often attack adversary loons by coming up from beneath the water’s surface with its bill straight toward the other loon’s sternum, or chest,” D’Auria wrote in a blog post for the wildlife agency. “Many adult loons have several healed-over sternal punctures from fights like these.”
D’Auria believes the loon was protecting its chick from the raptor.
“We know conflicts between bald eagles and loons have soared in recent years as a result of the recovery of our eagle population,” D’Auria wrote. “We are seeing more and more eagle predation on loon chicks and even adult loons.”
D’Auria said this is the first documented case of a loon killing an eagle.
“Who would think a loon would stand a chance against such a powerful predator?” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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