Prairie Falcon with a Northern Shoveler as prey (Graphic)

Prairie Falcon fly by after attacking the Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon fly by after attacking the Northern Shoveler

Earlier this morning I spotted a Prairie Falcon perched on a rock while on the Antelope Island Causeway, before we could get stopped and into position to photograph the falcon it took off over the water and attacked a Northern Shoveler. The duck was floundering in the water and the Prairie Falcon flew over and past it when I took this image.

Another flyby - Prairie FalconAnother flyby – Prairie Falcon

The Prairie Falcon made several passes up and down the shoreline, landing, then taking off again. The waves pushed the dying Northern Shoveler closer and closer to the shore.

Prairie Falcon with Northern Shoveler at the edge of the Great Salt LakePrairie Falcon with Northern Shoveler at the edge of the Great Salt Lake

When the duck reached the shoreline the falcon showed a bit of hesitation about going over to it and after a bit the bird flew over to the Shoveler which was still part way in the water.

Prairie Falcon tearing into the neck of the Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon tearing into the neck of the Northern Shoveler

The Prairie Falcon tore into the neck of the duck at this point even while the waves rocked the duck and the falcon gently back and forth.

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 1Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 1

The the falcon gripped the duck with its talons, I wasn’t sure if it was going to fly away with its prey or just bring it on to the shore.

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 2Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 2

The Prairie Falcon seemed to struggle a bit with the weight of the Shoveler which can weigh up to 1.3 pounds (375 grams).

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 3Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 3

The falcon used its wings and its free foot to move the duck.

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 4Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 4

It seemed determined to move it away from the water.

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 5Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 5

I really liked this pose and the great eye contact the raptor was giving me.

Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 6Prairie Falcon moving the Northern Shoveler from the water 6

The falcon continued to drag the duck to drier ground.

Prairie Falcon with Northern Shoveler on the shorePrairie Falcon with Northern Shoveler on the shore

It finally made it! The small waves were not reaching this section of the shoreline. I like how this shows the yellow feet, the dark tips of the talons and the yellow cere of this adult Prairie Falcon.

Prairie Falcon devouring the Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon devouring the Northern Shoveler

The falcon wasted no time and tore into the breast of the Northern Shoveler and feathers were flying as it did. I wish that the bird had been closer but if it had been it might not have stuck around to eat its prey in front of us. The light began to fade as another cloud came in from the west, it was snowing (again) to the south and west.

Prairie Falcon with a pile of feathers from the Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon with a pile of feathers from the Northern Shoveler

The falcon really chowed down on the Shoveler as we watched and photographed. When we left because the light was leaving us the handsome raptor was still there and still eating the duck.

I have to tell you it feels totally awesome to watch a Prairie Falcon attack, bring in and eat the prey it caught naturally. These birds are simply amazing.

All of these images were taken with my Nikon D300 and Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC lens resting on my noodle. The Prairie Falcon wasn’t baited, it supplied its own food.

Mia

(I took a boat load of images of this falcon, these were just a few that I liked)

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and photographing birds. My approach is to photograph the birds without disturbing their natural behavior. I don't bait, use set ups or call them in. I use Nikon gear and has multiple camera bodies and lenses.

48 Comments

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  7. Perfection in photos, Mia, just awesome!!

  8. Mia, such drama! Wow! I can see how you would take a “boat load” of images! I would have too! Then, it is always so hard trying to decide which ones to post! Well done and well documented!

  9. Incredible work Mia. Love the shots here. You really have done an excellent job telling the story with your pics. I can only imagine what that was like to capture on camera. I like the graphic warning especially:)

  10. superb series! I admire your work very much.

  11. Fabulous shots Mia; especially liked the ones with the falcon’s wings raised

  12. These are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    What a stunning sequence! I’m so glad you share these photos with us…. it’s so helpful to learning the mannerisms of the birds and their body motions. Much appreciated, indeed!

  14. Fantastic images of a magnificent raptor! Luck was on your side in the timing, but your technical expertise made it awesome! Thank you for sharing! – Wally

  15. Humming Bird Lover

    Hi! A great number of great pictures! It would make a great showing as a short movie to show kids in schools! Some of your other birds and critter,also. You should contact a Shool Ed Dept or College to use these as a teaching course. Keep up the wonderful pictures

  16. Mia:
    Awesome sequence!
    Dave

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  18. The Falcon wins against the water. Great photos.

  19. impressive and incredible, great moment shared with us mia, thanks :-)

  20. Amazing series. Talk about the right place at the right time.

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  22. Awesome. You guy’s are so lucky and talented.
    Good to see you today.

    • Earl, it was great to see you too and i hope that you got some beautiful shots on the island as well. If I had looked to the south even for a second I might have missed spotting this bird, I’m glad I didn’t!

  23. Simply stunning! There are few things more awe-inspiring and beautiful than these raptors in their element (even if that is at the expense of some ducks). Great work Mia, thanks for sharing!!!

  24. Wow-Mia! What a great behavioral capture- this is just outstanding work by all measures, congrats!

  25. That must have been quite the experience. I love encounters with raptors and the one you had would have made my day as well! Excellent images! Thanks for sharing.

  26. Awesome capture Mia! We miss you down here in Florida! You are allowed to come visit you know.

  27. Very dramatic catch. I cant’s believe it has the guts to catch a duck that size, bravo for it, what a story!!!

  28. Beautiful series, Mia! Thank you for sharing. I love raptors and watching them be raptors, too.

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