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Fight between two bald eagles in a Minnesota street hides a fascinating back story

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The two bald eagles sprawled on the ground in Minnesota had the police officials wondering what to do (Pic Courtesy Twitter/@PlymouthMNPD)

It was a rare sight in Minnesota when a pair of the United States national bird -- the bald eagle -- which is also a part of the US President’s seal, was found in a rather dramatic posture lying in the middle of a street in the neighbourhood, according to an article in smithsonianmag.com.

It happened this month when two of these eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were discovered with the talons interlocked, seeming to be in a tussle, according to a report in Live Science.

This rare sight attracted a small gathering of people who, unable to decipher what to do, called the Plymouth Police Department to the scene. Footage from a dash cam showed the two birds sprawled on the street, with their wings outstretched, grappling and screaming to get free of each other.

In the video, Mitchell Martinson, the police officer at the scene is audible saying “I don't know what to do with them. They're definitely locked together, kind of out of energy."

It was a mystery as to how these raptors got themselves entwined in this manner.  The American Eagle Foundation spokesperson, Crystal Slusher, told NPR these birds land up in this state either because of fighting over territory or during courtship.

With the population of this once endangered species who were removed from the US Government’s list on July 12, 1995, growing steadily, tussles and fights between these birds of prey have increased, more so near their nesting territories.

These birds who are one of the largest in North America are very territorial by nature. Their fight commences with pitched screams which signifies territorial vocalisation. This is followed by circling of the unwelcome intruder till the bird leaves. When the trespasser refuses to go away, the birds start pursuing each other till one of them leaves or the fight breaks out to settle the issue.

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As per information shared by Live Science, every year the Raptor Center located at the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota attends to a minimum of six bald eagles who are injured and have sustained wounds while battling it out for the territory. Quarrels usually take place during spring as that is the time when the eagles start hunting for an area to nest and also in the winter when the raptors try to reclaim the nests for use.

Slusher informed NPR that while doing their courtship dance which takes place in the air, these birds connect their talons and nosedive towards the ground before dexterously coming apart at the last second before hitting the surface to fly away. It is possible that the two birds found in the present case could not judge their dive accurately and remained stuck even when they hit the ground.

The police official, Martinson at the scene recalled seeing in a show on Animal Planet that talked about covering the head of the bird to calm it down. The video footage showed him using a cloth bag to try this tactic when the eagles tried to fly again.

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Shortly after this, the raptors managed to get free from each other’s grip and fly away.

Chatting with CBS Minnesota, Martinson remarked: "We do have de-escalation tactics, but I've never applied them to eagles or other animals."