Friday, March 30, 2007

When birds attack

These photos aren't beautiful like the ones of Pale Male & Co. in New York (scroll down for a peek), but they're important to birders.

Last Sunday a webcam trained on a pair of nesting peregrine falcons in Pennsylvania included shots of two males locked in a 20-minute death battle for the nest and female, Dorothy. A young male was trying to take charge from Erie, a male who had helped raise 18 young with Dorothy.

This bird’s eye view, so to speak, of falcon fighting and spouse stealing offers new insight into bird behavior, said Tony Bledsoe, an ornithologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Photos show the birds tumbling off the 40-foot-high perch. It appears Erie won. He’s a tough old bird, watchers say, and may have passed along those survival skills to his progeny. In 2003, his son, Louie, wrested a nearby falcon nest from its 12-year-old patriarch, Boris. Louie bit his head off. “It’s tough out there,” Bledsoe said.

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