Country diary: buzzard and crows meet in aerial combat
All through the spring, mewling cries of raptors have scolded out of thin air. On clear-sky days such as this the buzzard is complainer-in-chief, condemned by nature to speak only in a minor key. Even in the exaltation of soaring, the uplift of raised wings is accompanied by a downbeat of dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, the buzzard demonstrates moments of great expressiveness, when its peevish tones are transformed into genuine distress.
Such a mayday came just as I was sauntering down the long slope from Sheerhatch Wood. The call had me swivelling round to scan over the trees, only to be turned again by a pained cry that seemed to be coming from the opposite direction. The buzzard was flying overhead, assaulted front, back and sides by a pair of crows. The smaller birds were intent on ruffling a few feathers, lunging and jabbing with mute jibes that might have said: “Egg thief ! Chick killer! Get out of our territory!” The hapless buzzard, their sworn-at enemy, flapped in loud desperation,
unable to rid itself of its turbulent
Retreating dark shapes against a light sky, the birds were becoming harder to tell apart. Every so often though, the buzzard would tilt to show the defining shallow V of its wings. And the V was not for victory.
The encounter was mercifully brief: the buzzard’s alarms had evidently stirred its mate, which flew slowly yet purposefully to its rescue. The clever crows weighed up the shifted odds and melted away.
The skirmish had passed, the drama just beginning. The two buzzards began to circle each other, one clockwise, its mate anti-clockwise, and it was if they were about to collide on a spiral staircase. They all but clashed in midair, barely a wingspan apart, and then repeated the hazardous manoeuvre three times more. Was this an affirmative display of mutual trust, each bird invading the other’s airspace, yet showing skill and restraint in avoiding a clash, resisting the urge to attack? Such interdependence would be vital over the coming weeks in raising chicks that complain louder and more persistently than any other.
Dogfight between a carrion crow (Corvus corone) and a buzzard (Buteo buteo).