By Dan Howlett @DanHowlett85

TWO giants of the air engaged in an aerial battle when one tried to steal the other’s supper

Scroll down for the full story


Ill-eagle move: A white tailed eagle swooped in to steal his rival's catch

The stellar sea eagle, which can weigh up to nine kilograms, was returning to its nest with a catch when a rival swooped in to steal its prey. 

The white tailed eagle, which has a wingspan of around 2.5m, tried to snatch the fish and the huge pair did a full turn in the air without either letting go.

Home free: The stellar sea eagle didn't expect competition after catching the fish

However,  despite its enormous size, the stellar eagle lost its catch to the challenger.

Photographer Nicolas Ruesens, 40, was visiting Japan at the end of January when he captured the incredible shots.

He said: “I felt so lucky to see two of the world’s biggest eagles going into battle and performing a full midair turn without losing prey.

Dog fight: The eagles completed a full 360 degree turn while battling over the fish

“The midair fight was imperceptible to the human eye but luckily my camera caught it all.

“Both these species concentrate on coastal areas and on lakes near the coast so they share space and food.

Blink and you'll miss it: The whole thing was over within seconds

“Despite this it’s very unusual to see two of the biggest eagles in the world struggling for prey like this.

“I was very lucky because I was shooting the stellar eagle when the action suddenly arose.”

Big birds: The eagles are two of the biggest species on the planet

Nicolas had travelled to Japan to shoot red-crowned cranes in the south but headed north to shoot the stellar sea eagles at dawn.

He added: “The majority of these birds winter farther south in the southern Kuril Islands, Russia and Hokkaido in Japan – so I felt lucky to catch them on this trip.

Both species are under threat because of changes to their habitats

“The species are legally protected and classed as vulnerable.

“Despite being protected there are still many threats to their survival including habitat alteration, industrial pollution and over fishing which decreases their prey source.

To the victor: The white tailed eagle eventually left with the spoils

“Their current population is only an estimated 5,000 and that is decreasing.

“I just hope we can do more to protect these wonderful animals.”