Gangs of the sky: Crows are riding on the back of a tawny eagle.
One explanation for the strange sight before you is that crows are definitely plotting world domination and now they’re probably going to win because they’ve drafted in the eagles.
But before you start readying for an army of eagle-riding crows, here’s a (slightly) more plausible scenario.
Taken in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana, this (incredibly lucky!) snapshot captures the moment a Cape crow latches onto the back of a tawny eagle.
“A pair of Cape crows had been harassing the eagle for a while, pecking at it on the ground. When the eagle flew off, the crows followed [and] this one managed to land on the back of the eagle, and get a good enough grip to continue to peck at [it] in flight,” explains photographer Barry Scott.
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“The eagle flew on for a while with the crow attached, until it managed to dislodge it and fly off into the distance,” he adds.
Just what might have prompted the crow’s brief joyride is unclear, but crows are well known for their eagle-pestering ways.
“Crows are basically the gangsters of the bird world,” jokes Shannon Hoffman from the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in South Africa. “I see them bothering birds – owls, eagles and others – all the time, seemingly just for the heck of it.”
Hoffman, who’s been working full time with birds of prey since 2000, adds that while it is possible the crow was displaying some territorial behaviour, it’s more likely that it was just simply being a pest.
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“Crows generally seem to know not to mess with more agile birds of prey like goshawks, as these birds are quite capable of quick and deadly retaliatory manoeuvres. Eagles on the other hand, are unlikely to want to waste energy on ‘swatting’ a pesky crow,” she explains.
In this particular instance, the crow clearly had the eagle beat, if only for a few moments.