There was a crash landing Sunday at the Duluth International Airport, but it didn't involve airplanes. Rather, it was two bald eagles, which were fighting in midair when they locked talons. In a rare spectacle of nature, they were unable to disengage in time before crashing to the runway.
"Apparently, mature eagles will sometimes fight over territories," Randy Hanzal, a Minnesota conservation officer, told GrindTV in an email. "They will do battle in the air, crashing into each other and grabbing an intruding eagle with their talons.
"Usually, they will let go of each other before hitting the ground, but in this case, they had the talons so deeply imbedded in each other they may have been unable to let go."
Hanzal was the one who was called in to collect the birds and deliver them to Wildwoods, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Duluth.
"Surprisingly, the two eagles were remarkably calm as I grabbed them both and loaded them into the back of my truck," Hanzal said. "I think they were still more intent on winning the battle than any concern for me."
Hanzal didn't have a container big enough for the eagles, so he put them in the bed of his truck, covered them with blankets and jackets, and strapped them down with webbing, according to a report in the Duluth News Tribune.
"Halfway to the rehabber, there was a ruckus in the back of the truck," Hanzal told the News Tribune. "I looked around and saw feathers flying up. One of the eagles jumped out the back, onto my tailgate."
That eagle flew away, apparently no worse for wear. The other eagle smartly hung around to get treated with antibiotics, fluids, and pain medication. Both eagles were expected to recover.
Another wildlife expert told the News Tribune that it is "pretty rare" for fighting eagles to hit the ground like this.
"I have never seen this before," Hanzal told Grind.