Why did a loon stab a bald eagle through the heart?

As eagles rebound in New England, they're coming to blows with the aggressive water bird.

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Though common loons may look harmless, the territorial birds will fiercely attack any interlopers to their freshwater habitat.

In July 2019 a game warden in Bridgton, Maine, got an unusual call: A bald eagle was floating lifeless in a lake. At the time, biologists suspected the animal might have been shot or poisoned by lead fishing tackle—all too common causes of death for wild birds.

Now, tests have revealed the bird’s bizarre demise: A stab wound directly to the heart. The murder weapon? The dagger-like beak of a common loon. (See a photo of the dead eagle.)

It’s the first time a loon killing an eagle has ever been documented, says Danielle D'Auria, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

According to D’Auria, a dead loon chick was found nearby, suggesting a defensive loon parent gored the eagle as it attacked the loon’s nest. This phenomenon is on the rise in New England, as bald eagles continue to bounce back from near extinction in the 1970s, she says. (Learn how a national symbol bounced back.)

Loons and eagles are also top predators in Highland Lake, competing for valuable territory.

While loons appear serene...

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