When Curtis Falwell heard a sudden crash of pecans on the roof of his Brentwood home on the 100 block of Gregory Lane Monday morning, he couldn’t have guessed the culprits behind the commotion.
Outside he discovered a pair of bald eagles entangled in the clutches of one another near the top of a tree some 30 or 40 feet off the ground. The eagles appeared unable or unwilling to separate as they struggled in the branches.
“I heard a bunch of ruckus outside and the dogs started barking really loud and a bunch of pecans fell all over the house,” said Falwell. “I went outside and (the eagles) were stuck in the tree. I looked up, and there they were.”
A call to 9-1-1 resulted in responses from the Brentwood Police Department, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, Contra Costa County Animal Control and the City of Brentwood. After assessing the situation from directly under the tree, all of the responders retreated to the street to avoid adding stress to the already distressed eagles.
The bald eagle is a large raptor that can weigh up to 14 pounds and can have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. The national symbol of the United States is easily identified by the snow-white head and tail that is characteristic of both male and female adult birds. Placed on the federal endangered species list in 1967, they were removed in 2007, though they continue to be protected by several acts including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Eagle Act. While the bald eagle’s recovery from the brink of extinction is a success story for the Endangered Species Act, they remain on the California list of endangered species.
A team from Lindsay Wildlife Experience (LWE) in Walnut Creek responded to the incident and hatched a plan to get the eagles out of the tree that included a team member approaching the birds courtesy of a bucket truck while firefighters on the ground were prepared with large nets to contain the raptors if they fell to the ground.
As Aireo Shipman from LWE approached the birds, they apparently decided enough was enough, and with flourish of screeching and beating wings, the birds loosened their grip and flew from the tree. Within seconds, they were out of sight.
“It could either be a territorial dispute or a courtship,” said Shipman as he explained how the birds might have ended up in the tree. “I think just me getting close to them and disturbing the tree was enough for them to let go and fly away. Ultimately this was the best outcome ... They both looked really good.”