Rare Picture: Blackbird “Rides” Hawk

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Talk about a bird’s eye view—a was recently photographed “riding” atop a .

A visitor to the DeSoto and Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuges in Iowa and Nebraska recently snapped an incredible photograph, which was released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

But if the photograph seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is, experts say.

“I don’t believe that it’s a bird taking a ride—I think it was just a well-timed shot,” says refuge manager Tom Cox.

Check out this rare sight: A red-winged blackbird hitching a ride on a red-tailed hawk that Mike White spotted while visiting DeSoto and Boyer Chute National #WildlifeRefuge in #Nebraska and #Iowa. We see territorial blackbirds (among others) dive-bombing raptors, but this is definitely something you don’t see every day. Photo courtesy of Mike White.

Cox said the picture most likely captures a perfect moment during a fight between a blackbird and a hawk—and that blackbirds attacking and harassing hawks is actually quite common.

“In fact we probably see that occurrence of blackbirds dive-bombing red-tailed hawks about every day we’re in the field,” he says.

It also happens in other bird species: Crows have also been documented attacking eagles, as seen in these amazing photographs published in July.

Get Off My Lawn

So why harass and attack a dangerous predator?

Usually “to identify and harass a predator away from a territory,” Brian K. Schmidt, a museum specialist in at Division of Birds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, says by email.

The blackbirds aren’t motivated by a particular need to protect eggs or young—they’re just naturally territorial, Cox adds. (Also see “Why Birds Attacked the Peace Doves in Rome.”)

“It’s like the little brother pestering the big brother in the sky,” he says.

“The blackbirds will fly around them and dive-bomb at them, and the hawks try to avoid them or even sometimes swipe at them. But generally the blackbirds are a little too quick in mid-air and can get away.”

“It’s rather gutsy,” he adds. “When you see them attacking pretty much any bird of prey, they don’t think anything about it.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 04 Aug 2015.


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Haseeb Shaikh

This is an amazing frame,,,, salute the camera dude,,,

Stephen Daly

Getting a photo of a bird riding on top of another bird is pretty rare…but I managed to take this photo of a Bateleur being attacked by a Fork-tailed Drongo in Tanzania earlier this year.

Tommie Rogers

Actually, I have seen Eastern Kingbird standing on the shoulders of a Red-tailed Hawk and pecking the head of the hawk as it flew. I just didn't get a photo of it. It is likely that the Red-winged Blackbird was attempting the same behavior to threaten the hawk.

Connie Wessel

Charlotte Ginn