Monday, December 13, 2010

A Peregrine bites the dust

While looking for shorebirds and waders in Costa del Este (Panama City) last saturday, Osvaldo Quintero and I witnessed a dramatic episode of the daily fight for survival in the birds' world. A young Peregrine Falcon was mercilessly attacked by a pair of adults, probably defending their winter territory. We were inspecting the recently cut grass of the extensive fields in Costa del Este, spying the birds that were taking advantage of the insects and others critters available. The most numerous were the Cattle Egrets... a complete flock was following the tractor working on the fields, but also many raptors were attending too, including an adult Zone-tailed Hawk flying over some Black Vultures (not to be confused with the Turkey Vultures that were on the fields too). First, I noticed the noise of the three birds maneuvering in the air, both adults chasing the young one.
The fight reached the ground, right where the egrets were, so they flew away without thinking on it twice! Once in the ground, the young Peregrine tried to repel the attacks, showing its claws to the adults during each of their steep attack dives, lying on its back.
Eventually, the tractor came close to the Peregrine, so the adults stopped the attack for a while, allowing me to take some pictures.
However, the young Peregrine flew to a nearby flooded field, where it was struck again, this time by only one member of the pair. The adult Peregrine was too fast for my camera in Aperture mode, so you will see only its blurry silhouette and the young one trying to defend itself. Notice the third witness of the attack, a Crested Caracara in the background of the next photo (only the head is visible).
It was a nasty attack, sometimes with an audible PAFF! during each hit by the adult. After several minutes (and many hits), the adult left the young one inmobile in the ground. A Turkey Vulture approached it, surely with obscure intentions, but for its dissappointment (and our relief), the young Peregrine started to move, quite wet and clumsy.
The Peregrine Falcon flew to a nearby wall, where the Crested Caracara joined him.
It seemed to be well for such a fight and then it flew to never be seen again... I hope it found its own territory and to be strong enough to fight another day.

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