It only lasted 20 seconds, but luckily Adam Wang had his camera on hand to catch a series of stunning shots as two eagles fought on the ground.
The bald eagle brawl happened at Jericho Beach Park on Good Friday. Wang, an aspiring wildlife photographer, and his wife Adele Liu were out looking for a different bird altogether. On their way to the parking lot a group of crows caught their attention near a well-known aerie.
"It happened really fast," Liu says, describing how the eagles were surrounded by crows after falling from, or near, the nest.
The pair moved closer, with Wang snapping shots of the two birds fighting in the dirt. His photos capture the speed and ferocity of the battle with soil, talons and feathers flying everywhere.
"Once they touched the ground all the crows started screaming," Wang tells Vancouver Is Awesome.
At first they thought it might have been an acrobatic mating dance, where eagles will meet in mid-air and fall to the earth, but they realized it was something else as the fight continued on the ground.
It ended with the victor holding the defeated eagle's head with its talon.
"It just happened, and then it just stopped," Liu says. "We thought the eagle underneath was dead. He didn't actually die, so it was good."
Luckily Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (OWL) has a sign up nearby and Liu called. Within 30 minutes members of the group arrived. Liu says the two eagles were in the same position the entire, between the end of the fight and the arrival of OWL (which is why they thought the defeated owl might have been deceased).
"He didn't move for the entire 30 minutes we were waiting for the rescue team to come," she says.
Wang says he thinks someone called 911 after seeing the two birds.
When OWL arrived they used a long net to collect the two birds; the victor wasn't too keen on that Liu says, and locked his talons around the net until he was inside a car.
"OWL were amazing, they came really fast," Liu says, noting she was impressed with the group's work.
In speaking with OWL staff the couple learned the two eagles are likely both male (it's difficult to tell with bald eagles since males and females have the same plumage). They believe one male was defending the nest site, which is monitored by the Pacific Spirit Park Society.