White-bellied Sea Eagle and the Grey Heron

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Interspecific | 10

Allan Teo was with his fellow photographers in Changi on 3rd February 2007 when suddenly a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) appeared in the sky chasing a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) (above). Taken totally by surprise, yet he was ready with his equipment to record a few dramatic shots of this exciting aerial chase.

Although the eagle is a superior hunting machine, the graceful but cumbersome heron succeeded in out-maneuvering the raptor by zigzagging in the air to eventually dived into a patch of low growth and thus escaped the latter’s talons.

In Allan’s very own words: “The heron swept back its outer wing panels to reduce drag and increased airspeed (below). It allowed the White-bellied Sea Eagle to come in closer. Whenever the eagle extended its claws towards it, the heron always twisted and turned in the air, out flanking the eagle.

“The chase ended when the heron let the eagle come in close once again before it suddenly levelled out and dived into the bushes.”

The heron’s sudden crash among the vegetation disturbed the House Crows (Corvus splendens) that were foraging around the shrubs. These crows instinctively flew up and chased the eagle away. A lone Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) that was around, normally an enemy, allied itself with the crows and joined in the chase.

Input and images by Allan Teo.

10 Responses

  1. How cool. I have to say I’m glad the heron made out all right. I wonder if the crash landing was intentional to get the attention of the crows?

  2. This is a spectacular series of images and a great description of the chase. Thank you. I’m particularly struck by the size difference between the birds. That eagle is HUGE!

  3. Cool pictures! That heron is grace personified (heronified?).

  4. […] contribution is White-bellied Sea Eagle and the Grey Heron by Allan Teo […]

  5. What a cool sequence of shots and a great story. I know how hard it is to capture something like that. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Those pictures are STUNNING. And so is the story.

    I am glad the heron got away. I often see grey herons here (Japan) and have become a fan – they have such a weird elegance and dignity. The pointy-toed hunch-shouldered flying style gets me every time, and that second-to-last picture is a classic.

    But I’m amazed at the crows taking on the eagle like that – the size difference is astonishing. Do they dare because they’re in a gang?

    I don’t like to admit it out loud around here, but I am fascinated by the clever crow hooligans that are such a menace in Japanese cities. Just yesterday I found a fabulously arty coat hanger nest high up a tree in a small park near my house, and got some pictures. (Here. I will go back and try to get better focused pictures at some point.) In the same park there was another, ‘traditional’ crow’s nest – not a coat hanger in sight. Why do they do that? It makes the whole thing look very purposeful – one nest all coat hangers, the other none, like they were picking and choosing rather than just being opportunistic.

  7. Crows incorporate wires, pieces of plastic cords and even coat hangers into their nest. But this is the first time I have seen a nest made nearly entirely with hangers. Yes, get more pictures and share them with us here.

  8. I’ll try! I can only get a view from underneath – the nest is too high and not visible from elsewhere. (And I haven’t climbed a tree since I was about 12.) The only other wire nest I’ve seen (on TV) had woody bits on top and a nicely padded interior, and no doubt this one does too, but I can’t find out for sure.

    I have discovered why the nests are so different, though. This link explains (under ‘nesting preferences’) that carrion crows build their nests in deciduous trees, and jungle crows in evergreens. So most likely the wire nest is a jungle crow’s nest – that’s a camphor tree, which is evergreen. I don’t know what the other tree is, but it’s definitely deciduous.

    I didn’t even know we had two types of crows in urban areas, let alone that they were so similar looking. I’ll be looking at them more closely from now on.

  9. More pictures – and two MORE wire hanger nests!

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