The Osprey and the White-bellied Sea Eagles
Allan Teo was at his friends’ farm in Kahang, Malaysia, recently when he noticed an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) flying towards the fish pond. The pond had more than 1,000 fish and was the territory of the White-bellied Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster). Such a rich fishing ground was too tempting for the Osprey but the sea eagle were not about to allow an intruding Osprey fish there.The Osprey started fishing and two eagles immediately gave chase. This did not deter the Osprey. It eventually caught a fish even though it was harassed by the two eagles. Not satisfied, the eagles chased the Osprey for more than a kilometer until it was out of sight.
As Allan noted: “When I returned to examine my photos, I noted this perfect mirror image shot that I did not notice in the field.
“I was told that raptors do not do 'loops' in the sky. However this photo shows that to be not true. Again the camera captures what the eye cannot see. Even when one-meter wingspan birds are fighting over your head.
“So the Osprey can fish while being harassed. I was glad this happened as it allowed extended camera opportunities.”
Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say: “The White-bellied Sea Eagle featured is not a full adult. Ospreys are not residents but visitors to our shores. Confrontations between competitors for fish are not as rare as we think and more observations should produce more stories of such encounters.
“I remember back in the late 1980s watching a White-bellied Sea Eagle continually harassing an Osprey carrying a fish over Kranji Reservoir until it dropped its prey, which was then taken by the eagle. This is almost a form of kleptoparatism, like what frigatebirds and skuas normally indulge in.
“As for the aerial acrobatics, raptors often lock talons in mid-flight during courtship displays, with one upside down like in the photo. They can also invert themselves during territorial battles or when fending off harassment from pests like crows. Excellent photos though!”
Account and images by Allan Teo, September 2006. Osprey on the right (top image), left (centre image) and top (bottom image).