Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snowy Owl vs. Peregrine Falcon

On Saturday, I was fortunate to photograph a young snowy owl. It was perched on a post, looking quite striking. After a few minutes it flew away. As it was flying, it was attacked by a peregrine falcon!

The snowy owl was seriously outmatched in flying maneuverability, so it hit the deck as fast as possible. From the beach it defended itself from the falcon by raising its wings and trying to look as large as possible.

The falcon swooped at the owl at least ten times. Each time the falcon attacked, the owl ducked. After the falcon passed, the owl seemingly taunted the falcon by puffing its chest out and flapping its wings in the direction of the falcon.

I would have to declare a draw on the bout. While the falcon was clearly the aggressor, it never landed a strike. The owl successfully defended itself from the peregrine falcon.

My other impression of the encounter came from watching the two birds fly. The falcon was obviously incredibly quick and maneuverable in the air. In comparison, it made the snowy owl, which is a very graceful glider, look like a clumsy oaf. It reminded me of what a battle between an F-15 and a WWII era bomber might look like. This was clearly a lightweight vs. heavyweight battle.

Please be respectful of the owls and the other photographers. Saturday was very frenetic. There were a number of photographers and birders looking at the owls. Most kept their distance and did not pressure the birds. A few over zealous photographers kept getting too close.

The owls need their space and their rest. Try to stay at least 50 feet or more away. When approaching the owls, stay low and move slow! Too many people try to walk right up to the owls. Please keep other photographers in mind and don't set up shop right in front of another photographer. Today, I watched a photographer step in front of another photographer who had been quietly and patiently watching the owl for more than two hours. Please care for the owls and be considerate of other photographers.


  1. Fascinating series of photos and commentary. Thanks for sharing. As I've watched folks posting photos over on Facebook and Flickr, I couldn't help but worry about the birds and other wildlife out there. I'm glad you spoke out about troublesome humor behaviors.

  2. Thanks for sharing - these are wonderful images and lucky you to have witnessed this amazing sight. By any chance, are you going to be leading a group to Duxbury beach for snowy owls?

  3. Very nice. Thanks for the story and the great pictures. Found your blog through NPN.


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