Boss of the Sky

Boss of the Sky

Sara • 05/03/2024


It’s not just animals that will compete for territory with the same species or with other species.  Birds are no different and will often complete very elaborate displays to figure out who will stay and who will go.

Large raptors, such as eagles, will fiercely defend their territories and engage in talon grappling as one of the ways to figure out who will be the boss of the sky. 

Talon grappling is where you find two birds grabbing feet and tumbling in the sky. This is initiated by the aggressor who stoops in from a steep angle and from behind the bird it is trying to chase away, with talons out and open its intention is to grab its competitor. In an effort to defend itself the competitor will roll onto its back, open its own talons and catch the aggressors talons with its own, saving it from having the other birds talons in its softer flesh. Instinctively both birds grip and hold on and together they start plummeting towards the ground.  

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Now that they’re falling with wings open and locked in with their talons – both birds frantically try to fly and start spinning in a circular motion which is called cartwheeling. Because of centrifugal force, the legs remain extended and talons lock and they may only complete one or two revolutions before letting go. There have been documented cases of birds locked in until they hit the ground. Sometime these birds survive but remain dazed for a few minutes before flying off, others are not so fortunate and may die upon impact.  

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It has also been recorded that birds of different species may engage in talon grappling, one example of this is a bateleur and a yellow billed kite which have been seen doing these aggressive displays.