[Eagles] Special Experience with Raptors

Special Experience with Raptors

Got a very special experience yesterday in Mai Po that I want to share with others. I am not good in identifying raptors, so pls correct me if my identification is wrong.

In the bird hide #8 yesterday afternoon (8Dec ~3pm), everything happened suddenly. I saw all ducks flew at once. After I took several photos of the flying ducks, I was curious on why they don't just land again but circling the areas for more than 2 times? Then it came to my mind that in this forum, someone mentioned that such case happens when there is a raptor around. I searched for a while and found the eagle (Eastern Marsh Harrier?). In a hurry, I took photos of it. I noticed it caught something and descended behind the trees, so I took a closer look into the photo. Surprisingly, I found it caught a Great Cormorant! Most photos are not in good focus, only the first one below is better.

Then after less than 5 mins, it came back empty handed (2nd photo). I can't tell if it is the same bird, I just guess it is. In a few more minutes, his friend (or competitor?) came. I guess it is a Greater Spotted Eagle. They flew around the area for awhile, then left.

I got a few questions about this experience:
- is my identification correct?
- is it common for raptors to catch a big bird like Great Cormorant?
- how a raptor catch such a big bird? I barely saw in a few photos before the first attached one that before the prey was on its claws, there was a moment the eagle was like using its beak to catch it. But it was the back that faced me, so I can't be sure. Is it possible to catch it this way?

I believe I need to spend more time to know their usual behavior, but I really think it is a very special experience to watch such happening!

Pls comment and correct me if I got anything wrong. Thanks!


IMG_3130.jpg (79.56 KB)

9/12/2012 23:57


IMG_3170.jpg (58.43 KB)

9/12/2012 23:57


IMG_3187.jpg (43.43 KB)

9/12/2012 23:57



Eastern Buzzard and Greater Spotted Eagle


You were correct, it is an Eastern Marsh Harrier, and the other bird is a Greater Spotted Eagle.
Are you sure it caught a cormorant? I would be very surprised if a Marsh Harrier could catch a cormorant, although it may attempt to do so. Cormorants are probably heavier than Eastern Marsh Harriers, and have a very strong sharp bill so I would expect them to be able to fight off the attack. The first photo shows a cormorant behind the harrier, not caught.
Raptors catch prey with their feet. These are very strong for this purpose. The beak is more designed for tearing the flesh after it has caught the prey (usually while it is held in the feet).

Congratulations on your sighting - it sounds like you had a very good experience.


My two interpretations of the first photos;
1/ the cormorant is held by its head by the eastern marsh harrier
2/ the cormorant is stand on the branch as the eastern marsh harrier is flying by

More likely to be the 2nd since the posture of the cormorant looks very up right, which suggests that it is stationary as oppose to being dragged in mid-air ...if it is being dragged, should his lower body further back?

[ Last edited by wilsondring at 10/12/2012 14:06 ]
Wilson Dring


The cormorant is definitely in a tree behind as the harrier flies past. Note that the body of the cormorant is partly behind the branches of the tree, that the sharpness of focus on the two birds is different, and that the cormorant is standing upright rather than hanging from the bill (e.g. neck is bent rather than pulled straight by the weight of the body).

The harrier does seem to be carrying something in this photo, but I don't think you can tell what it is. My guess would be that it is a moorhen or something similar, but there is little to base this on beyond the fact that it looks dark.


Thanks all for your comment.

It happened too quickly that I can't be sure myself. After taking the photos, I saw by eyesight that the eagle carried something big (but not sure if so big as Cormorant or not) and descended behind the trees.

Anyway, that moment was passed. I just know that watching raptors flying and preying is really enjoyable!


Regardless what it caught .. It is the experience that counts ...
Wilson Dring