Prairie Falcon with a Northern Shoveler as prey (Graphic)

/, Antelope Island State Park, Davis County, Prairie Falcons, Utah/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 adult with dead Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon adult with dead Northern Shoveler

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 with grip on dead Northern ShovelerPrairie Falcon with grip on dead Northern Shoveler

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 with prey on the shoreline of the Great Salt LakePrairie Falcon with prey on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake

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

Prairie Falcon adult lifting prey over rocksPrairie Falcon adult lifting prey over rocks

It seemed determined to move it away from the water.

Prairie Falcon struggling to lift prey over rocks on shorelinePrairie Falcon struggling to lift prey over rocks on shoreline

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

Prairie Falcon lifting Northern Shoveler over rocks on the shorelinePrairie Falcon lifting Northern Shoveler over rocks on the shoreline

The falcon continued to drag the duck to drier ground.

Prairie Falcon with a Northern Shoveler on the shorePrairie Falcon with a 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)

47 Comments

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  7. Matt G November 15, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Perfection in photos, Mia, just awesome!!

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2012 at 5:17 am

      Thanks Matt, it was a great experience.

  8. Kathie November 14, 2012 at 2:20 am

    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!

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2012 at 5:20 am

      Kathie, I took over 600 images of the Prairie Falcon, it was difficult to go through and cull them! Thanks so much for commenting.

  9. Rohrerbot November 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    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:)

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2012 at 5:23 am

      Thank you Chris, it was a very exciting experience, one I won’t soon forget!

  10. Ilze Long November 13, 2012 at 7:36 am

    superb series! I admire your work very much.

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you very much Ilze and thanks for visiting & commenting on my blog.

  11. Matthew Sim November 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you Matthew, I’m tickled with these images.

  12. Rachel LeBlanc November 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    These are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Merrill Ann Gonzales November 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    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!

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Thank you Merrill, it is my pleasure to share.

  14. Wally November 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

    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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you Wally, and thanks for visiting my blog too.

  15. Humming Bird Lover November 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks Mom! I love having you in my “corner”.

  16. Dave Sparks November 12, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Mia:
    Awesome sequence!
    Dave

  17. […] Prairie Falcon with a Northern Shoveler as prey (Graphic) […]

  18. Bob Bushell November 12, 2012 at 1:21 am

    The Falcon wins against the water. Great photos.

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      With our weather extremes falcons do have a hard life here but they thrive & survive because they are so powerful. Thanks for your comment Bob.

  19. eric c11 November 12, 2012 at 1:04 am

    impressive and incredible, great moment shared with us mia, thanks 🙂

  20. Seagullsteve November 11, 2012 at 11:37 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Steve, it was totally amazing to be at the right place at the right time!

  21. Earl November 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      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!

  22. Laurence Butler November 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    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!!!

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Thank you Laurence, it is so moving to see these raptors in their element, especially this kind of behavior.

  23. Chuck Gangas November 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Chuck, this is an awesome bird!

  24. Jeff Cooper November 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    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.

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Jeff, it was an awesome experience, I’m glad I spotted the falcon so both of us could get images.

  25. Don Margeson November 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks Don, I miss all of you in Florida too and hopefully I will be back for a visit!

  26. M. Firpi November 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Maria, falcons are very powerful, it hit this bird once and that was enough to cause its death.

  27. Dale Stanton November 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

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

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