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Vicki, United States

I took my dog for a walk along the Yellowstone river. There are lots of birds in this area, including a pair of resident Bald Eagles. I always watch for them, either circling overhead, perched in a tree overlooking the river, or maybe sitting in/near their nest.

This particular day, I noticed both eagles in the nest. Then one suddenly took flight, heading right toward us. About 30 feet away, I saw the eagle drop its legs and grab for a dead branch on the top of a tall tree. The eagle actually broke the branch off and carried it in its talons, then it swerved in another direction and did the same thing with another branch. Now it held a broken branch in both talons.

I watched the eagle soar overhead, then disappeared behind a hill, still carrying the branches.

This behavior is actually called pair bond reinforcement, and it is done by non-migrating birds outside of nesting/breeding season, within their territory, to strengthen the pair's bond. I have never witnessed this behavior before, and my mouth literally dropped open as I watched it.

I grinned like an idiot for the rest of the walk, all the way back to my car.

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