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Eastern Kingbird and Peregrine Falcon aerial battle

Massachusetts birder Tim Spahr witnessed and photographed an incredible aerial encounter between an Eastern Kingbird and a Peregrine Falcon.

Being involved with this blog means I am fortunate to be privy to any number of remarkable birding experiences sent to me by our readers and members. When Massachusetts birder Tim Spahr sent this remarkable set of photographs along I knew I had to share them. I’ll let Tim set the scene.

Tom Wetmore and I had elected to meet on Plum Island at Parker River NWR on August 6 to look for shorebirds and passerine migrants.  While we were chatting at Lot 1 around sunrise, Ryan Schain turned up, so all three of us decided to hang together.  After a few hours we ended up at the Hellcat Dike area.  This season Bill Forward pool, the southern impoundment, as been drawn down a bit and is drawing good numbers of shorebirds.  While Ryan and I were on the Dike, Tom was off at the blind about a half mile to our south.  All at once the shorebirds took flight in a panic, and from the south a large, dark juvenile Peregrine was among them.

It made a few lazy passes at a few birds and continued on a more-or-less straight line for Ryan and me.  Realizing it was going to come fairly close, I got the camera up, but also cursed the bad light, as the falcon was not going to be lit properly.  As luck would have it, an extremely vocal and aggressive Eastern Kingbird arrived on the scene and proceeded to mob the Peregrine relentlessly.  While this unfolded, the two birds drifted just enough to my west and north to be quite well lit.  Of course by now the Peregrine was ignoring everything but the angry Kingbird; both birds flew just past Ryan and me no more than 100 feet up.


I managed to get off about 30 photos of the encounter, expecting a few decent shots.  It was nice to see the Kingbird’s red crown stripe flared in anger in a few of the photos.  That definitely exceeded my expectations!

Included are a couple photos from the encounter, but the entire set is available at Tim’s flickr page and the photo set is well worth checking out in its full-sized entirety.


Thanks, Tim!

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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