Everyone has seen massive flocks of starlings moving across the sky like a haunted black cloud at some point in their lives. They move in unison so perfectly that it can be hard to comprehend. Here in central Pennsylvania we don’t get flocks of millions of starling that other parts of the world see, but we can still see small versions of those incredible flocks whenever a raptor decides to bother a group of starlings foraging in a farm field or when heading to roost. The flock balls up and begins to weave back and forth, as if they are all tied together by little strings between their wings. Meanwhile, the raptor dives through them and the starlings seamlessly avoid captured. Below are a few photos of various raptors bothering starlings – sometimes (as I feel the case was with the Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier below) the raptors seem like they are just messing with the starlings. Other times, like in the case of the Merlin below, the raptor seems intent on flying down and killing a starling.
The following series of photos were taken by Nick Bolgiano recently at the Stone Mtn Hawkwatch in PA. These photos show an adult Red-tailed Hawk, presumably a migrant, going after a small flock of starlings. Is this migrant actually looking for a quick meal as it moves down the ridge or is it just taking the opportunity to stretch its wings a little and mess with the starlings?