Visual Documentation: Air-to-Air Combat between Birds of Prey

A staunch battle which took place last weekend between a tailed buzzard and a short-toed snake-eagle who fought over a nesting place in the Judean plains was dramatically documented with a home video camera by a fascinated Gilad Friedman.

kkl bird (photo credit:)
kkl bird
(photo credit: )
Alerted to bird screams and pitched cries Friedman was amazed to see how a male tailed buzzard nesting nearby mercilessly attacked the nest of a huge, short-toed snake-eagle with a 25-day old gosling inside. A pair of short-toed snake-eagles, parents of the gosling, who tried to fend off the tailed buzzard from their offspring, absorbed most of the assault lasting about 15 minutes. Throughout this entire battle the small and aggressive but swift tailed buzzard attacked the big and cumbersome short-toed snake-eagle. Gilad Friedman, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University, was at the site as part of his research into the tailed buzzard in the Judean plains, under the guidance of Professor Yoram Yom-Tov and Dr. Yossi Leshem of Tel Aviv University, funded in cooperation with KKL-JNF and the Israel ISPN. The research aims to study the nesting biology of the tailed buzzard in order to establish the factors necessary to protect the species from extinction. During 2008, Friedman found 27 nests built by the birds in the Judean plains and Judean Mountains. The research is still ongoing but Gilad has already alighted on interesting findings. One of them is that the population of tailed buzzards in the Judean area has undergone significant and unique changes of habit. The birds no longer nest on cliffs in the Judean Mountains but have begun nesting in trees in the Judean plains. Another interesting finding is growing competition for nesting places and feed between the tailed buzzards and short-toed snake-eagles including preying on the latter's goslings by the tailed buzzard. It is believed that this competition began because the tailed buzzard moved to the nesting grounds of the short-toed, snake-eagle, which was not the case in the past. The tailed buzzard and the short-toed, snake-eagle are both birds of prey, whose capacity for maneuver and abrupt turns, as documented on film, is a source of inspiration to every air force fighter pilot. These birds of prey snare their quarry with their powerful claws.Their eyesight is ten times sharper than mankind's: the short-toed, snake-eagle identifies a snake from a height of 400 meters, while a tailed buzzard can identify a partridge chick from 1.5 kilometers away, glide over its quarry at a speed of 150 kph and snare it with its claws. Sponsored content