Air Traffic Control

Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)
Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

The airspace over Greenfield was busy with bird traffic on Sunday. One of those birds was in control.

Around noon Anne Marie Bosnyak, Linda Schmidt and I were chatting at a table outside the Staghorn Cafe when Anne Marie pointed out four distant turkey vultures. She’d left her binoculars in the car so she wasn’t sure about the fourth one. With my binoculars I identified it — a peregrine falcon.  At that distance I couldn’t tell if it was immature or adult.

Most birds avoid flying near peregrines because of their swift pursuit of avian prey and fierce territoriality.  The vultures were no exception.  They circled together and moved westward, away from the peregrine heading south.

The peregrine rose in the heated air, then noticed a pair of dark birds rapidly heading west and turned to follow them.

Ravens.  As if to acknowledge the peregrine’s presence one of them tumbled three times in the sky but they didn’t slow down.  The ravens left without incident.

The peregrine circled lazily in the heat and then something really interesting flew below him — an adult bald eagle heading toward the Monongahela River.

As I watched, the peregrine dove several times at the bald eagle and drove it lower and away.  Even through binoculars I could see the eagle flinch as it tried to evade the peregrine.  They disappeared over the horizon toward Hays.

In Pennsylvania peregrine falcons control the airspace whenever they want to.  Bald eagles don’t stand a chance, as shown in Peter Bell’s photo above.

Here’s what happened during a similar incident in 2012: Peregrine Versus Bald Eagle … Guess Who Won.


(photo by Peter Bell)

5 thoughts on “Air Traffic Control

  1. Wow, you and your friends were certainly in the right place at the right time to witness the peregrine falcon in action. I’m so jealous. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

  2. Neat! A few years ago I had the good luck to see a peregrine interacting with ravens off of a cliff face that they both frequented on Skyline Dr. in VA. It looked like they were actually playing as the falcon flew among five ravens doing impressive air maneuvers. It was late summer and I wonder if they were all immature. The falcon flew off but eventually came back and they started all over again. There was a roped off area indicated as a peregrine nest site and the signs along the trail said to watch for ravens at play in the air currents. I hope to make it back there this fall. I so enjoyed the time I spent there.

  3. Cool story Kate. And I can’t help noticing that YOU were not caught without binoculars! Word to the wise: take them with you even at an outdoor cafe, cuz you never know. (Kate St John does it!)

  4. I saw a peregrine at the Greentree water tower this afternoon. Fortunately I too had my binoculars handy. Love your information. thank You.

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