This post is a gallery of images from an unusual interaction between a Tawny Eagle and Hooded Vultures. This gathering of raptors occurred because Lions had killed a Zebra under a dead tree the night before. There was plenty of meat left on the Zebra carcass but a Lioness was lying next to the carcass, so the raptors were sitting patiently above in the dead tree waiting for the Lioness to finish dining.
~ William Blake
Two aspects made this sighting unusual. Hooded Vultures have been listed to Critically Endangered. Recently published evidence suggests the population of Hooded Vultures is declining extremely rapidly due to indiscriminate human interference and habitat loss.
The next sequence of images shows a blonde morph Tawny Eagle interacting with two Hooded Vultures.
The Hooded Vulture is a scruffy-looking, small Vulture with dark brown plumage, a long thin bill, bare crown, face and fore-neck, and a downy nape and hind-neck. It typically scavenges on carcasses. The Hooded Vulture is a typical Vulture, with a bald head (which is usually white, but flushes red when agitated) and a greyish “hood”. It has broad wings for soaring and short tail feathers for maneuverability.
Tawny Eagles are usually a rusty brown in colour but on this particular morning were were treated to a display of a variety of morphs. Although two distinct plumage morphs are typical, in fact the plumage of Tawny Eagle can be very variable, from creamy to dark brown and with or without brownish streaking.
“Your vision, rather than just your seeing, displays a thousand or more possible paintings in the simplest things.”
One of the signs that a raptor is about to fly is that after preening it shakes all its feathers to realign them, usually in preparation for flight.
“In order to fly, you have to let go of the world you’re hanging onto.”
With its preened feathers in place, the Tawny took off from the dead tree and flew in a wide circle, only to return to the dead tree. It was not clear why it did this!
During the time the Tawny circled, the Hooded Vultures had moved to a different part of the dead tree.
The Tawny decided to push its way in between the two Hooded Vultures.
“The eyesight for an eagle is what thought is to a man.”
~ Dejan Stojanovic
The Tawny was using the direct, intimidation approach.
The Hooded Vultures did not move and the Tawny had to start flaring on finals.
At this point, it looked like the Tawny still believed it could land in between the Hooded Vultures.
It was interesting to see the Tawny put on its air brakes in mid flight, at the last second.
The Tawny quickly realised that there was no room for it on the dead branch and almost started to hover. You can see some of the feathers rising on the top of its wings showing that the airflow was at stall speed on parts of the top of its wings.
The Tawny then turned to avoid the Hooded Vultures and one Vulture ducked to avoid the Tawny’s talons.
“A friend is like an eagle; you don’t find them flying in flocks”
It was a close call, the Tawny very nearly connected with the lower Hooded Vulture.
This next image clearly shows the stalling airflow over the Tawny’s wings as it manoeuvred away from the Hooded Vulture lower down the dead branch.
The Tawny flew away and circled again.
This time it found an unoccupied section of the dead tree.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
~ Neil Armstrong
This Tawny was a magnificent specimen and its blonde morph just added to the spectacle.
Another Hooded Vulture came in to join the party waiting for the Lioness to leave the carcass below.
“The eagle has ceased to scream, but the parrots will now begin to chatter. The war of the giants is over and the pigmies will now start to squabble.”
~ Winston Churchill
This Tawny was clearly hungry and soon started looking around for alternatives.
Time to move on. The Tawny decided not to wait, the party was getting crowded so was time to look for other pickings.
The power in those wings!
As a wildlife photographer with a penchant for raptors, this was a special sighting.
“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”
~ William Wordsworth
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.