Selfless Allies at the Sea

Thursday June 13, 2019

Road’s End Beach, Oregon

It was mid afternoon. The sun was bright but a brisk north wind was blowing. I seemed to be totally alone on Road’s End Beach. Walking along the shore, I spotted a bird that distracted me from my thoughts. It was a bald eagle standing on a dead crab. No sooner did I grasp the oddity of this sight when the shadow of a turkey vulture announced its attack on the eagle. The vulture wanted the crab and the eagle defended its catch.

After two futile attempts to strike from above, the vulture landed a few feet from the eagle and drew itself up to full height as though to further exploit its advantage in size. But the eagle was not intimidated even as the vulture attacked its legs and returned to the sky in a menacing ploy.

Rapidly swooping back and forth, assaulting with both claws and beak, the vulture seemed intent on exhausting the eagle. At such a pace, it did look as though it would eventually succeed. All the eagle could do was defend its position on top of the crab. Never once did it attempt to actually eat it. Then the miraculous part of this fascinating drama unfolded.

Just as the vulture turned in the air for another attack, four seagulls appeared out of nowhere. In unison, they surrounded the vulture and steadily redirected its flight until it was driven far from the eagle. Once it was safe to do so, the eagle quickly devoured what it wanted of the crab. Then it abandoned what remained and limped with injury into the surf before flying away.

The vulture soon returned to claim the last of the crab without competition. The gulls had no interest in it. Based upon their behavior, their objective was to help the eagle. Their effort succeeded and it was humbling to behold.