• Vicki Wilmarth

Western Kingbird vs. Swainson's Hawk


Birding during any hot, dry summer in the Panhandle of Texas can be challenging. The unusual and interesting migrants have already passed through our area, while birds that do summer here often disappear deep into cool tree foliage by mid-morning.The lack of variety slows me down and turns me into more of a birdwatcher than a "birder". To my benefit, I spend more time observing behaviors, rather than just trying to rack up a longer list of species seen in one birding trip.


Which brings me to the 20 minutes that I stood on the side of a farm to market road near Pampa, Texas, in July just to watch and photograph the interactions between an intruding Swainson's Hawk, two fierce Western Kingbirds and an Orchard Oriole.


The hullaballo started when a Swainson's hawk flew into a cottonwood tree, only to be confronted by an angry male Orchard Oriole. The Oriole. appearing tiny next to the hulking hawk, didn't directly attack the raptor, but he definitely let rip a string of bird curse words.


Within a few seconds, the Oriole was joined by an even more vocal Western Kingbird. I assume both of these small birds had nests nearby that they were defending. The Kingbird was relentless in his efforts to remove the hawk from that vicinity, allowing the Oriole to perch warily nearby while the Kingbird dive bombed the Hawk.

Soon a second Kingbird arrived, and the two noisy yellow flycatchers were able to harass the Hawk into flying away from the cottonwood tree and across the road to a nearby string of power poles. The Kingbirds followed the Hawk across the road, fiercely threatening the Hawk should he decide to double back towards the cottonwood.


This chase made for a beautiful aerial ballet performed across the wispy white clouds floating in a perfect blue Texas summer sky.









The Hawk finally realized he was beaten and was last seen flying down the farm to market road, searching for a more peaceful perch without pesky pursuers.

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