[Tweeters] Harrier steals Red-winged Blackbird from Merlin

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 27 19:38:49 PST 2019

Dear Tweeters, 
Today, on the Samish Flats, an interesting dogfight took place amongst four species of raptors and an unfortunate Red-winged Blackbird. This was along Bay View-Edison Road. 
First, a female Northern Harrier started making passes at a small flock of about five Red-winged Blackbirds. Suddenly, a dark Merlin came in, and made pass after pass at the Harrier. Then the Harrier flew a hundred yards northeast and put up the little flock of blackbirds again. The Harrier
and the Merlin both missed during their respective dives at the flock, but then the Merlin made off for the southwest, doubled back, and headed for them again at high speed, just a meter off the weed-tops. One male Red-winged Blackbird flew up into the sky, where the Harrier once again missed it, but the Merlin accelerated upwards and caught it, right near the Harrier. Black
feathers scattered in the air.

Then the heavily loaded Merlin tried to fly west toward the dike, but the female Harrier went after it. The Merlin changed direction and headed for the northeast, but the Harrier kept up the pursuit. The Merlin dropped the bird and headed toward the dike; the Red-winged Blackbird actually survived being carried in the grip of the Merlin for a minute or more, and flew downwards at a gradual angle. 
The female Harrier came right down, however, and snatched him out of the air. Just then, a Rough-legged Hawk flew in from the north, and began to chase after the Harrier, but soon gave up. This Rough-leg had a full crop, so presumably it was not that hungry--or maybe it realized that the prey item was something other than a small mammal.
A moment later, an immature Harrier appeared to be heading toward the Harrier that was trying to carry the blackbird to the southwest. Before the new Harrier could engage the one with the prey item, a Red-tailed Hawk came in and chased the prey-laden female Harrier towards the southwest. 
I could not tell what happened next, but a moment or two later, the Red-tail was walking around on the ground, and the other raptors that had been involved in the struggle were all gone out of sight. I think that the Harrier retained her ill-gotten meal, but am not sure.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
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