There are plenty of creative stories we could make up about why a crow hopped aboard an eagle’s back midflight: A wing cramp. Stitch in his side. Or pure laziness.
But there is actually a reason behind the daring move, which was captured in a series of amazing photos by an amateur photograph name Phoo Chan, who said he was in the “right place at the right time.”
To see all of the Eagle vs. Crow photos, click here.
Ornithologist Paul Stancliffe with British Trust Ornithology had a name for the stunning act — “mobbing.” He told the Express that the smaller bird landed on the larger’s back for one simple, and quite understandable, reason.
“Crows are highly territorial and see eagles as a threat. This bird is trying to defend its young by forcing it to leave the area.”
That’s right, she was protecting her babies. And according to Stancliffe, she actually had a pretty good chance of fighting off the larger bird, despite its formidable talons.
Eagles may be great hunters, but they’re not flexible enough to capture anything while in flight. That left the crow open to pester and poke as she saw fit, just to make sure her kids were unharmed.
The moment, which Chan said only lasted for a second, was captured in Washington and the photos have become the envy of other photographers, the Daily Mail reported.
Since he witnessed the entire “mobbing,” Phoo had his own impressions of the brief interaction, which he shared with the newspaper.
“I was photographing a bald eagle flying around hunting for an early meal when suddenly the crow approached (it) from behind. At first I thought the crow was going to chase away the eagle. I have seen crows harassing a hawk by swooping back and forth in order to drive it away from their territory. I was completely awed to see the crow actually land on the back of the flying eagle. It was as if it was taking a short break and at the same time a free ride. What’s more surprising was (it) didn’t seem to mind and kept flying as if nothing happened. I think the crow decided to land on the eagle because the eagle did not respond to its harassment so it landed briefly and then left.”
After their meeting in the sky, both birds went their own separate ways. In Phoo’s imagination, the unlikely pair have become friends.
[Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images]