Hawks, Crows, and Eagles

About four months ago, I was riding my bicycle through the rice fields by lake Kitaura, and noticed a red hawk and a crow facing off for an aerial battle. I stopped my bike in front of the field and watched as a "dogfight" ensued before my eyes. The hawk had evidently decided this field was his hunting ground and the crow therefore was an intruder.

I've seen crows gang up on a hawk before, to keep the hawk away from their nesting areas, and therefore, eggs. A hawk is larger and a better flyer, but is no match when outnumbered three to one.

Image hosting by Photobucket
The hawk keeping right on the crow's tail.

This fight was one on one, and something to see. As they climbed, dived, swooped and turned, each bird gave it their all. The crow seemed faster, but the hawk was quicker. The crow seemed brighter, but the hawk was smarter. It seemed neither had the advantage at first. But in the end, the hawk was all over that crow. His size, flying skill and strength overwhelmed the crow, who retreated to a distant field. It helps to click on the pictures to see the larger versions.

Image hosting by Photobucket
The crow (right) taking a last look at his opponent before "bugging out". Note the position of the hawk's tail who was about to turn sharply toward the crow.

Yesterday the sky was mostly overcast. In the early afternoon it started to break up a bit with lighter spots and even some blue sky peeking through here and there. As I walked out into the front yard, I heard a familiar high pitched whine and the sound of the air being ripped apart as if it were a sheet of paper. We hear that sound often, as the Mitsubishi F-15 fighter planes of Hyakuri Air Base to our north return from practicing out over the Pacific, usually followed by a Kawasaki T-4 trainer. But this sound was closer than usual, and I looked up to see a lone Mitsubishi F-15J "Peace Eagle" cut across the sky directly overhead in a sharp left bank. He was low, perhaps 400 meters (1200 feet), maybe less, above me. Narita was reporting the cloud ceiling as 1500 feet broken and he was below the clouds. I could clearly see the pilot through the canopy.

Image hosting by Photobucket
Water vapor condensing in the wing tip vorticies.

When he came around a second time, I went back in the house and grabbed the camera. When he came around for a third time I took a few pics. The angle was not as good as the first pass, and I had to follow him with the camera while holding down the shutter button due to the delay of the digital camera. But I managed to catch a picture while it was right over me, condensating water vapor trails coming off the wing tips.

Image hosting by Photobucket

The second shot - by pure coincidence - included a crow. For a moment it looked like another aerial dogfight!


The Moody Minstrel said...

Those are some awesome shots!

That pic showing the hawk with its tail angled for a hard snap-turn is a beaut!

The flying skill and sharp senses of birds of prey never cease to amaze me. When I used to go camping/fishing at a lake in Central Oregon, an osprey used to circle the lake. Every once in a while, if one of us hooked a fish that was too small and tossed it back, the bird would suddenly tuck in its wings, come down like a rock, pop its wings open at the last minute like a braking chute, and snag the fish only a few meters from the boat. It was an amazing sight, and we were at the point of hoping all our catches would be too small just so we could watch the aeronautical display!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks, if only I had a little better camera on hand. They were really beautiful to watch.

Wow! I'd love to see an osprey snag a fish up close! I've only seen that kind of thing in nature films. I never tire of watching birds in flight. They make our human attempts at it look pretty lame in comparison. Yes, we're fast and can do a lot, but they are one with the sky in a way we can never hope to achieve. And that, in the end, I think, is the dream.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull anyone?

Don Snabulus said...

My bird pics never come out. Good job! In a dogfight, I'm rooting for the crow.

bonnie said...

oh, you might enjoy reading about something I was lucky enough to see last summer during a circumnavigation of Staten Island last summer. Absolutely amazing to see, I felt privileged.

Also, our local celebrity redtails Pale Male & Lola have begun mating flights - last year they were evicted (by an idiotic co-op board) from their posh digs on 5th Avenue, they had to rebuild their entire nest once the housing court of public opinion forced the co-op board to relent on their no-redtails-allowed policy, and although they had a clutch the eggs didn't hatch, probably just as good for the pair after all the stress & effort, but still sad - I'm hoping they have better luck this year!

Pandabonium said...

DS - thanks. I'm for the hawk. We have too many crows around here.

Bonnie -Neat story of your Staten Island experience seeing the osprey go after the cormorant. It was probably a territorial dispute. That must have been fascinating to watch.

Good luck to Pale Male & Lola, but I hope they can get away from the voyeurs!

bonnie said...

Oh, they're used to it, they've been using that nest for years now & Pale Male had actually selected the site with his first mate (I think Lola is his third - I think at least one was sadly lost to a poisoned rat) and it's quite remarkable the way it's situated - it's on a cornice on a low-rise apartment building on 5th avenue, directly across the street from the Model Boat Pond in Central Park - the benches on the far side of the pond offer the most amazing view & people are there watching them all day. The nest is far enough from the "observation post" that they don't seem to be phased by this at all. You can see them from the benches with the naked eye, but you can't make out details - however the dedicated birders all bring various sizes of scopes & they are lovely about letting anybody who wants to see more take a look.

The osprey-meets-cormorant thing did happen near a nest with youngsters in it - it was unbelievable.

Chen said...

Awesome pictures..
It is always nice to observe the animals and birds and the nature..

Lrong said...

I see quite a bit of hawk-crow fights in my neigborhood too... love watching the hawks do their thing on the crows... when I die, I don't mind being reincarnated a hawk... kakko ii desu ne...

FH2O said...

Nicely put together story stringing events 4 months apart of different birds!

Great shots of the birds in flight. Wow!

The Moody Minstrel said...

I like the Japanese word for hawk:


It has so much more flair and impact than the word for eagle, which is the rather wimpy-sounding washi.

Pandabonium said...

Chen - nature is where it's at.

Lrong - I agree with the sentiment, except I might prefer to be a more peaceful bird.

FH2O - thanks.

MM -Taka does sound cool. Washi sounds kind of wishi-washi.

Mickell said...

Awesome shots indeed! :D

Robin said...

the Cantonese has a saying, "An army of ant can crowd and kill an elephant."

Whenever you cannot fight on quality you can fight on quantity.

The same applies on a dinning table, if you dun have big fish to serve your guest, perhaps 2 small fish instead.

Don Snabulus said...

I was rooting for the hawk against the F-15 :D

Don Snabulus said...

Oops. I meant crow, not hawk.

Pandabonium said...

Michael, thank you.

Robin - big fish, small fish - when do we eat?

DS - I should have realized that. Yeah I'm for the crow in that case too.

sushilsingh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.