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Hawks harassing starlings

Alex Lamoreaux|

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

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

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Alex Lamoreaux has been an avid birder and naturalist since he was a youngster, growing up exploring the farmland and forested ridges near Hershey, Pennsylvania. He attended Hershey High School and Penn State University. Alex has worked on wildlife research projects, ranging from Whimbrel along the coast of Virginia to Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the desert southwest. Alex loves to share his knowledge of nature, as well as help to bring the birding community together to share the enjoyment that spending time in nature has to offer. Alex has helped to organize and coordinate birding events in his home state of Pennsylvania and beyond. He has traveled extensively throughout North America, Central America, and South Africa and is currently pursuing nature tour guiding, as well as continuing to refine his passion for wildlife photography. Contact Info for 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.

      Bill

      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

      Thanks!

      Subject: [thenemesisbird] Re: Hawks harassing starlings

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