Hawks harassing starlings

Alex Lamoreaux|

Everyone has seen massive flocks of starlings moving across the sky like a haunted black cloud at some point in their lives. They move in unison so perfectly that it can be hard to comprehend. Here in central Pennsylvania we don’t get flocks of millions of starling that other parts of the world see, but we can still see small versions of those incredible flocks whenever a raptor decides to bother a group of starlings foraging in a farm field or when heading to roost. The flock balls up and begins to weave back and forth, as if they are all tied together by little strings between their wings. Meanwhile, the raptor dives through them and the starlings seamlessly avoid captured. Below are a few photos of various raptors bothering starlings – sometimes (as I feel the case was with the Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier below) the raptors seem like they are just messing with the starlings. Other times, like in the case of the Merlin below, the raptor seems intent on flying down and killing a starling.

An adult male Northern Harrier playing with a flock of starlings. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

A Merlin about to slice through a flock of starlings. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The following series of photos were taken by Nick Bolgiano recently at the Stone Mtn Hawkwatch in PA. These photos show an adult Red-tailed Hawk, presumably a migrant, going after a small flock of starlings. Is this migrant actually looking for a quick meal as it moves down the ridge or is it just taking the opportunity to stretch its wings a little and mess with the starlings?

Adult Red-tailed Hawk diving on starlings. (Photo by Nick Bolgiano)

Adult Red-tailed Hawk diving on starlings. (Photo by Nick Bolgiano)

The red-tail misses. (Photo by Nick Bolgiano)

Adult Red-tailed Hawk taking another pass at the starlings. (Photo by Nick Bolgiano)

Adult Red-tailed Hawk misses again. (Photo by Nick Bolgiano)

About the Author

Alex Lamoreaux


Alex Lamoreaux has been an avid birder and naturalist since he was a youngster, growing up exploring the farmland and Appalachian ridges near Hershey, Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University, studying wildlife biology. Alex has traveled extensively throughout North America, Central America, and South Africa and is a freelance nature tour guide, field biologist, and wildlife photographer. Alex has worked on wildlife research projects ranging from Whimbrel migration along the coast of Virginia to Yellow-billed Cuckoo nesting in the desert southwest. He has been the migration counter at the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory for the past two fall seasons, documenting the massive visible migration of raptors and songbirds along Lake Superior. Alex loves to share his knowledge of nature, and strives to bring the birding community together to share in the fun that studying birds and wildlife has to offer. He has helped to organize and coordinate birding events in his home state of Pennsylvania and beyond. Contact Info Alex Lamoreaux aslamoreaux@gmail.com (717) 943-7086

  • Sweet photos Alex and Nick!

  • That is a neat series of photos Bill!

    • Bill

      Thanks, it was a pretty good show. I’m not sure I have the red tailed and the Harrier labeled correctly.
      I like your site — interesting and helpful.


      Subject: [thenemesisbird] Re: Hawks harassing starlings

  • Very cool, BIll. By the way – the bird you have labeled as a Peregrine actually looks like a Merlin.

    • Bill


      Subject: [thenemesisbird] Re: Hawks harassing starlings

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