Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

The Eagle and the Hawk – Behavioral Encounter – 33 photos

Welcome to a special blog post that documents a behavioral encounter my brother and I witnessed between two Bald Eagles and a Red-tailed Hawk, captured at the Ridgefield NWR on Nov. 20, 2013.  It took a while just to review all the shots I took and to choose the ones I thought might be interesting to share.  The elapsed time from the first frame to the last is 27 minutes and the time of day is around noon.  I’m shooting from my vehicle, facing south, with the sun to the left and slightly behind the birds–so this wasn’t the most ideal lighting.  The action centered around a small mound of natural debris that protruded out of the water about 250-275 feet from the road.  I shot these frames with a 500mm lens + 2x teleconverter, for a total of 1000 mm.  Other Exif data is 1/1250, f8, ISO 2000, Canon 5D Mark III.  The images are documenting wildlife behavior and aren’t intended to be displayed as top quality shots.  But I hope they’re good enough to give you a feel for the action as it played out.

As I pulled up to the spot where I had a view of the ‘dirt’ mound way out in the water, I noticed a mature Bald Eagle standing on the mound just looking around.  It was not visible but I later discovered that it was probably protecting a kill consisting of an American Coot, which it either found there or brought there itself.  I may have been checking my camera settings but when I looked back up, a Red-tailed Hawk had landed on the mound, effectively forcing the mature eagle off the mound and into the air.  The eagle then flew away.  I really wish I would have caught that initial action.

Here are shots of the mature eagle on the mound prior to the hawk arriving, and then, after the hawk ejects the eagle from the mound.  [By the way, the images are best viewed in large mode…please click once on the thumbnails to see the large versions.  Thanks]

_X5A7373-Edit20131120RNWR  bald eagle/red-tail hawk series














The hawk now believes it has the prey to itself and appears to be quite proud of what it just accomplished.




About 90 seconds later, this immature Bald Eagle decides to land on the mound and confront the hawk and hoping he might share some.  The hawk stands his ground and spreads his wings right back at the eagle, but I doubt the eagle was intimidated.




Then the eagle tries to show how tough he is by rising up in hovering mode for a few seconds.




The eagle comes back down and grabs a piece of coot.  All the while, the hawk does not budge.




Thinking the hawk should have been scared away by now, the eagle lowers itself down almost on top of the hawk.  Wings are flying and the stalemate continues.



The hawk may be too young to realize that this probably isn’t the wisest decision he’s ever made.




But the hawk hangs in there and the eagle flies off with the chunk of coot.




About a minute later the eagle comes back — this isn’t over yet!




The eagle still has the piece of coot clutched in its talons.  The hawk continues to stand its ground as the eagle returns to the mound.






The eagle decides to use the diplomatic approach and discusses the situation with the hawk in a civilized manner.



“You know Hawk, we really don’t need to lose any feathers over this.”



“Didn’t your mom teach you that it is polite to share?”






This is going nowhere.  The eagle is getting very frustrated.



The eagle grabs a coot leg in its bill and continues to hold the other coot part in its talons as it lifts off again.






My brother and I thought this confrontation was over but 10 minutes later the immature eagle returns.





The eagle tries again to talk to the hawk and tries to get him to reconsider that there is enough of this coot for two.







The hawk will have none of it!  The eagle wonders why the hawk is so stubborn.




Finally the eagle leaps into the air looks the hawk straight in the eyes!  “It is not polite to keep the whole coot to yourself,” screams the eagle!



_X5A7537-Edit20131120RNWR  bald eagle and red-tailed hawk


The hawk lets none of the eagle’s silly drama bother him.




The eagle tries one more time to firmly explain the situation to the hawk.  He gets right in the hawk’s face!




Realizing this hawk is not going to be broken, the eagle gives up and lifts off.




The hawk calmly goes back to his meal–the only thing he wanted in the first place.  He wonders why eagles need to have so much drama in their lives!



Thanks for checking out these images!  Next up is Nov. 4th’s images, which I am working on!



This entry was posted on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 at 2:43 am and is filed under The Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “The Eagle and the Hawk – Behavioral Encounter – 33 photos”

  1. Sue says:

    Gads, this is totally incredible. The hawk just wasn’t going to be outdone by an upstart eagle, he didn’t care how big he was. Just great, Gary. I think we saw all these players when were there yesterday….the hawk and the eagle…but they weren’t doing this!

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you, Sue, and thanks for taking the time to view my blog! I noticed you called me Gary…but I’m really Dennis! 🙂 You aren’t the first one who has done that so don’t feel bad. Thanks again for being a fan!

  2. Gary says:

    Great shots Scott, and I love your commentary! That was a fun experience.

  3. George Hanson says:

    Great series Dennis! You and Gary did a great job getting the images you did. Not often you have the good fortune to have such a scene reveal itself in front of you. You were both well prepared. Well done!

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you, George! I appreciate you taking the time to view my blog. You’re right…I haven’t seen a confrontation like this in my seven years of shooting. We just never know what we will witness around the next corner at the refuge!

  4. Christy says:

    Amazing photographs and an epic adventure watching this live!! I LOL at the commentary!! Awesome blog! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

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