Carrying what looks like a mole in its talons, a young Red-tailed Hawk planned to take it somewhere quiet and make a meal of it. But two and then three American Crows thought this might make a nice meal for them, instead. They don’t have the weapons to hunt such prey on their own, but if they could get the hawk to drop it …. The hawk, however, avoided their aerial feints and lunges. Just then another raptor flew into the scrum, with an uncertain motive. A juvenile Peregrine Falcon, a bird rarely seen in the park, flew past the hawk, paying no attention to the hawk’s cargo, and ignoring the crows. After a few sharp curves, the peregrine, the hawk, and the crows all dispersed, and the skies calmed.
The peregrine primarily hunts and eats birds. Mammals are low on its list, and this being a young bird, it may never have seen a mole before. I saw what was probably this same peregrine the next morning sweeping low over the north side fennel forest, spreading panic among the half dozen male Red-winged Blackbirds that perched on the shrub tops there. They all escaped, for the moment. The pigeons also have cause to tremble; they’re among the peregrine’s favorites. The peregrine is a deadly bird hunter, known to have downed more than 400 species in North America, including a few much larger than themselves, such as Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and Bald Eagles.
The aerial encounter in the video above took place so quickly that I could not tell what happened until I got the video home. Here it is slowed to half speed. I am indebted (again) for the identifications to raptor expert John Davis, whose incomparable flying raptor photos are on Instagram @jozoqo_photo.