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Peregrine vs Redtail - a fight for the ages

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#1 Gordo


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Posted 20 August 2012 - 03:57 PM

I'm fortunate to live in a city home to nesting pairs of peregrine falcons and redtail hawks.

The falcon's territory is the downtown core, they nest & hunt among the steel and glass canyons of skyscapers lining the streets in the city's business and retail center. They can often be spotted hunting the urban pigeons and doves which populate the concrete centers of many North American cities.

Redtails nest at the edge of residential areas bordering the Niagara Escarpment or other natural islands amid the ever-expanding sprawl of human development. They seem to commute from their roosting areas to hunt the escarpment forests and fields or the many wilderness areas fronting the lakeshore.

While walking from our place (located about 2 blocks from the downtown core) to our local Tim Hortons coffee shop one morning my wife and I witnessed an amazing battle between members of these two species. I'm guessing the fight started because the redtail flew too close to the peregrines territory while traveling from its nest (about 1/4 mile from our place) to the lakefront park just north of downtown. To get there in a straight line the redtail would pass directly over the intersection marking the start of downtown's skyscraper row, the street the peregrines nest on.

Our first hint that something was going on was the peregrine's battle cry. We looked skyward in time to see it dodging a strike from the redtail. Transfixed, we stood there and watched these two aerial hunters locked in combat for over 15 minutes. The redtail had a definite size advantage but the falcon's maneuverability countered admirably. Neither bird seemed willing to yield that piece of airspace to the other.

Before long my wife and I began to attract attention from other city dwellers curious about what we were staring up at. In just a few minutes the fighting raptors had quite the human audience watching their battle.

It was the peregrine falcon that dominated the fight. It would dive toward the hawk and then swerve to loop back underneath the larger bird and attack the underside of the hawk's wings with its talons. The redtail seemed to favor a head launched offense, trying to peck at the falcon but it never landed a single blow. The falcon ripped a number of feathers from the redtail's wings and also made strikes to the back and neck area.

Both birds were extremely vocal throughout the struggle that ended when the redtail finally yielded and flew toward the lakeshore park area. The falcon gave chase for a minute then returned and perched on a building ledge high above the intersection where the battle had taken place and the people who watched this epic encounter went back to the mundane duties of our human lives.

It was an amazing experience. My only disappointment was not having my camera with me.

I've seen raptors fight before but it was always members of the same species. This was the first time seeing two different large predatory birds locked in combat. (Fights among smaller birds, against their own or other species are actually quite common, I think) Has anyone else seen peregrines attack and drive off larger raptors? Any other stories of predatory bird combat?

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#2 illin



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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:10 AM

That sounds like a cool experience. One of the main reasons I like birding is because you never know what you are going to see.

Check out this interaction between a Peregrine and a Snowy Owl (Scroll all the way down to see all the pics). I would have loved to have seen that.

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