White-tailed Eagles are not so uncommon around Selfoss in winter although they breed in the Western part of Iceland. At this time of year they can sometimes be seen flying over the river in search of prey especially when it is cold and snowy.
River Ölfusá is the ideal winter habitat for ducks and geese because it never freezes over, thus making it also an ideal spot to visit for birds of prey such as White-tailed Eagles.
This adult White-tailed Eagle has been spotted several times in recents weeks in the area and I managed to catch these long distance photos on one of my trips.
The White-tailed Eagle’s main breeding territory is around Breiðafjörður Fjord in West Iceland. In total around 75 pairs breed in Iceland and two thirds of the population in the area around Breiðafjörður.
The White-tailed Eagle breeds in the western part of Iceland and therefore is not often seen in other parts of the country except in the winter time. This winter an adult bird has been spotted several times on River Ölfusá where it runs through Selfoss town and seems to have taken a liking to a group of local ducks.
In the snow fall one day this week the eagle soared high above the town, then plunged into and attacked the group of ducks. However, its mission was not accomplished this time. I caught a picture of the eagle as it flew away followed by a raven.
We witnessed the courtship of a young pair of White-tailed Eagles in Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the week before Easter. They turned around in the air, clasped claws and flew in circles. Later they landed together in a heath not far from where we parked our car.
The White-tailed Eagle reaches puberty around the age of six, finds a mate and starts a life long relationship. The eagle usually stays in the same area and its territory is huge. The couple more or less stay in their territory or near it the whole year round. Competition for the best territories is hard. Sometimes they might stray from their territories in October to December but they come back before courtship begins again in January.
The eagle’s courtship begins with a spectacular exhibition of arial agility early in spring, followed by mating and breeding. Such shows of arial competence are also seen among other birds of prey and ravens.
This week we went on a tour around Snæfellsnes peninsula. Within a 30 km drive we saw five White-tailed Eagles, adults and young ones. Since these birds were one of the reasons for our trip we thought we were quite lucky when we at last spotted three of them on the second day. As we were driving over the mountain from the Northern side of the peninsula we saw three birds gliding in the air directly in front of us and lowering their flight as they came nearer. What an amazing sight, – such majestic birds.
White-tailed Eagles are more common in this area than in other parts of the country, their main breeding territory being around Breiðafjörður Fjord. In total around 75 pairs breed in Iceland and two thirds of the population in the area around Breiðafjörður.
– More on the second sighting coming up soon.