White-tailed Kite Attack

After perching in the wrong spot, a red-shouldered hawk is dive-bombed by a white-tailed kite
After perching in the wrong spot, a red-shouldered hawk is dive-bombed by a white-tailed kite. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3: 1/4000 sec. at f/7.1

Occasionally raptors invade each others personal space, be it to encroach on their hunting ground or perch too close to a nest. They can engage in aerial battles, sometimes in dramatic fashion. Such was the scene I witnessed recently when a red-shouldered hawk perched on a tree, and a white-tailed kite didn’t like it very much.

I was alerted to the commotion by the screams of the kite, as it dive-bombed the hawk to drive it away from its perch. I was hand-holding my 100-400mm zoom lens at the moment, so I turned and ran straight toward the group of trees in order to get in better range. I didn’t worry about sneaking, because I figured both birds were probably too preoccupied to care about my approach.

After perching in the wrong spot, a red-shouldered hawk is dive-bombed by a white-tailed kite
After perching in the wrong spot, a red-shouldered hawk is dive-bombed by a white-tailed kite. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3: 1/3200 sec. at f/7.1

The kite swooped down on the hawk about five or six times, each dive causing the hawk to fly straight up and wheel over upside down to avoid the kite (who was quite a bit smaller than the hawk). Finally, the hawk gave up the flew away over the horizon. The kite also disappeared from view, presumably to return to a nearby nest or favorite perch. As soon as the commotion began, all other birds in the area disappeared to let these two birds of prey battle it out alone. After the fight was over, the entire forest was eerily quiet.

  • Nagarkot247

    Amazing action shots!

  • Howmiller

    We have a breeding pair of kites that moved in to nearby territory formerly held by a family of red shouldered hawks. The kites dive bomb the younger pair of hawks, who mostly ignore them when they are sitting on branches. It’s much more exciting than watching smaller birds trying to chase away the hawks. Great shots of the aerial action.
    How, Santa Barbara, CA