A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods


Bald eagle attacks duck at Green Lake

April 2nd, 2009 · Comments

Ariane sent us a note about an interesting incident she witnessed at Green Lake yesterday:

As I was running around the lake yesterday on the Aurora side, near the tennis courts and parking lot, I see a bald eagle swoop down and grab an adult duck from the shore of the lake! The eagle tries to fly away with the duck, but it’s too heavy and can’t get more than a few feet off the water. As all this is happening, other ducks and crows are chasing the eagle, squawking at him, generally freaking out. The eagle flies out of my view with the duck, but comes back a minute or so later (no duck) and tries to attack a crow. He finally gives up and flies away.

It was snowing and raining, and the lake was completely empty – I wonder if anyone else saw this? It was insane! I grew up in Alaska and never saw an eagle attack anything, and here it is, right outside my door. Crazy!

Did anyone else witness this?



  1. Eric Bass says:

    I have to admit that I had a real chuckle at first view of your story….I think it’s your writing style that moved me to appreciate the macabre in such that way. Nature is so weird….is it not?

    I’ve seen weirder than that in the city and I think it’s because the eagles (which are probably from the aerie that is located between the parking lot and Aurora) are losing food sources. There has been a breeding pair that I’ve noticed there for the last few years, and I have actually seen them swoop on the rabbits that used to be there. Well, now that the rabbits are gone (and god forbid they should try the Zoo out for food), I would think they are going for the remaining low hanging fruit as it were.

    Pretty weird scene indeed, and those crows….hmmmm can you really trust their own intentions? Glad they stuck up for the ducks…

  2. Mike says:

    Good! I root for the duck. Stupid eagle.

  3. Ethan says:

    Watch out for your chihuahuas, folks!

  4. Susan Mullen says:

    Ethan is right. People need to watch out for their small pets of all kinds.

  5. Sheila says:

    I have friends who lost both of their full grown male cats to eagles. These cats were large and able to take down male mallard ducks on their own, but were no match for an eagle.

  6. Boxcar says:

    I saw the exact same scenario play out around 1 month ago, except it was a team of 2 bald eagles attacking ducks near the shore. The duck dove under water to safety, but the eagle came within 6 feet of me and my small dog. It was HUGE! Needless to say, everyone who witnessed this was startled and awestruck… except my oblivious dog.

  7. Neighbor says:

    Shrug. New economy.

  8. whittier heights says:

    I saw a crow swoop and take an almost dead rat that the cat drug home last spring, and within day or so, a couple of crows fighting over a limping rat at the Thriftway in Ballard, and then later back at home a crow swooped and caught a pretty black bird -yikes ! – my most feard movie in childhood was Hitchcocks “The Birds”

  9. Sheila says:

    Boxcar, please tell me that you always have your small dog on a leash – at least when you’re outside. I remember this happening a couple of years ago and a guy was playing with his puppy off leash and there was an eagle in the trees above. We warned him to leash his dog and pointed out the eagle. We didn’t stick around to find out what happened.

  10. leukothea says:

    I saw an eagle get a squirrel at the Bitter Lake playground a few months back. It was only about 30 feet in front of me and my two small daughters, as we were walking into the otherwise-deserted playground.

    I was stunned — I’m from Minnesota, and lots of eagles nest along the cliffs of the Mississippi, but I’d never seen one kill anything right in front of me before.

  11. Whopper says:

    But I eat a canard a l’orange and vegans have a melt down.

  12. Boxcar says:

    Sheila – Yeah, he’s leashed all the time, he’d get into trouble otherwise. But he’s also 27 lbs., so it’s doubtful the eagle could carry him off.

  13. mary says:

    I’ve seen an eagle (not in Seattle) grab a tiny dog right out of an off-leash dog-park. There was a bit of hysteria in the park after that one.

  14. Julie says:

    I saw an eagle with what seemed to be a rabbit flying over the tennis courts one evening. There is a pair nesting in a tree on the zoo grounds. They come back every year and have had young several times.

  15. Fnarf says:

    A couple of years ago I saw an eagle take a good-sized fish out of Green Lake not ten feet in front of me. BAM! He really hit that water hard, and was off and away before I really knew what I was seeing.

  16. Street Urchin says:

    I just live at the bottom of the hill from Phinney in the Salmon Bay neighborhood. There is a young hawk who occasionally comes and sits in a tree in our back yard. A couple times now he has knocked off one of the pigeons that hang out on our garage roof.

    Seriously, you do need to keep an eye on your tiny pets with eagles around. I have a friend in the Hollywood Hills who lost a Persian kitten off his deck once to an eagle.

  17. JK says:

    I was in my kayak and about 15 feet from a small group of bufflehead ducks and then BAM, eagle hit the water at such incredible speed that the duck it grabbed was dead from a broken neck and dangling by the very short time it took the eagle to get back into the sky. He quickly landed on a tree snag in the marsh and began to disembowel the duck. I felt strangely complicit because I’d distracted the ducks with my kayak. But I love eagles, was glad to see her get a lunch.

  18. whittier heights says:

    Was at Alki @ 2: 56 PM Friday April 3 and was recounting Green Lake eagle story as we got out of the car near the Cactus with the visiting neice from East Coast.
    We looked up in the tree next to the rest rooms and there was a bald eagle. We waited and waited to see the resulting carnage – puppy, pigeon or small child ……..nothing happened.

  19. codswallower says:

    I went down to Alki on Friday at about 5 and there was a disembowelled duck on the boardwalk just west of the Cactus. It was gory. No obvious perp nearby though.

  20. AWE - Phinney says:

    I paddle on Lake Washington quite often. It is very common to see eagles out on the lake. I have seen ducks, birds, and fish get grabbed up. This is a part of nature and I find nothing alarming about it. Now for you cats and puppies, they are domesticated. It is your responsibility to take care of them so be wary about letting them run free.

  21. I was searching for pictures of eagles for my lectures when I can across this thread, so I thought I’d clear some things up. Having a PhD in Environmental Sciences and a master’s degree in Zoology, I can speak with some authority. A bald eagle catching a duck is nothing out of the ordinary. They are not like ospreys (“fish hawks”), which are specialists that catch live fish and only live fish. Although a bald eagle is very adept at catching fish, it will also go after ducks, geese, gulls, seabirds, shorebirds, wading birds, fish crows, bullfrogs, water snakes, turtles, young alligators, muskrats, beavers, racoons, carrion…in short, anything in, on, or near the water, living or dead. It’s niche is more of a generalist.

  22. erin says:

    I am up in Bellingham and an eagle just tried to get a duck on lake whatcom. Apparently they are having a problem getting to the fish. The duck is currently outside our house on a ledge (unreachable) in shock probably with a broken leg. Not sure who to call or what to do but the poor thing!

  23. Norm says:

    I live on Tillamook Oregon. We just saw an eagle attach a duck in flight and the duck fell into Cape Mears Lake. The eagle took three runs at the duck, but the duck alluded the eagle by diving further into the water. It was an incredible sight. I have never seen an eagle attach a duck in flight before.

  24. Rich says:

    I saw an eagle out in the middle of lake washington diving on a small black dot, probably a duck. It would circle and dive and the duck would go under, it didn’t seem in much peril as the eagle wasn’t as agile and had to make wide recovery turns giving the duck time to surface and breathe. Soon another eagle showed up and double timed the duck with the other eagle. I’m sure it was becomming oxygen deprived and had to surface soon after diving enabling one of the eagles to get him. The catching eagle seemed to have a hard time lifting off the lake but soon both flew off one low to the water like it had a load the other more freely flying. It was too far away to see that the eagle had the duck but they both flew off and there was no more black spot in the center of the lake. It was coldblooded act and the duck really didn’t have a chance once they joined forces