Lazy Crow Rides on Back of Eagle to Save Energy Like a Boss

A crow has been photographed hitching a very rare mid-flight lift on the back of a bald eagle. The much larger bird of prey was hunting for a snack in the skies over Seabeck, Washington, when the cheeky crow spied an opportunity. The encounter lasted just a few seconds before the birds parted and went their separate ways.

The chance meeting was captured by amateur photographer Phoo Chan, 50. His photo of a crow riding on an eagle’s back spread across the Internet like wildfire, and in the post below the photographer himself shares the story behind this shot, and some great tips for aspiring bird photographers

It all started when I saw jaw-dropping images of bald eagles in all kind of aerial actions, taken by a wildlife photographer friend, Conrad, in Seabeck, Washington back in 2013.

Credits: Phoo Chan

We were envious enough to want to hop onto the next flight to Seabeck, but unfortunately, we had to wait for the next season of the plainfin midshipman fish migration to Seabeck as they are the main prey for bald eagles.”

“The following year, I made my maiden trip to Seabeck, organized by another keen photographer friend, Thinh Bui. Before the trip, Thinh thoroughly researched the best time for photography, i.e. morning low tide to take advantage of the lighting and when the midshipman will be stranded at the beach, drawing an optimum number of bald eagles. That is the time the bald eagles will have a big feast.”

Credits: Phoo Chan

“In my five years capturing raptors and birds in flight, I have witnessed crows aggressively harassing other raptors that are much bigger in size in their territories, and usually these ‘intruders’ simply retreat without much fuss. It was absolutely mind-blowing when the crow did not appear to harass the bald eagle even at such close proximity and neither did the bald eagle seem to mind the crow invading its personal space.”

“What was even more amazing was when the crow briefly perched on the back of the eagle as if it was taking a free scenic ride and the eagle simply obliged. It was a sight to behold and I was delighted to have captured over 30 raw files of the sequence as keepers.”

“As usual I posted my shots on Flickr and 500px and it did not draw much attention until I was approached by Michael of Media Drum who published the images on Daily Mail News. To my surprise, the images went viral overnight…

Thanks to the power of social media. I have never received such international exposure for my work prior to this. The images were published in various media in more than 20 countries, from America to Europe to Asia and all the way down south to New Zealand. I was delighted to see the images shared and liked 36,000 times in NatGeo Facebook.”

“It was interesting to read varying comments from many viewers. While many complimented the images, some simply said outright they were Photoshopped. Several comments were hilarious, for example, Jeff Hamada tweeted “I CAN DIE HAPPY. my fav tattoo has become reality. a crow riding on a bald eagle!!” while displaying a picture of his tattoo of a crow with a cigar riding on a bald eagle.”

“Since the shots went viral during July 4th week, the infamous crow and eagle pair were symbolized into many different perspectives putting politics at center-stage. It was most definitely a wonderful and satisfying experience for me even though it was only a one-week-fame sort of thing.”

“The recognition I received for these shots have inspired me to share my experiences. I prefer to photograph action shots handheld as it gives me better flexibility to follow the moving subjects rather than having the camera on a tripod. I would go with a monopod when lighting is less conducive.”

Chan explained:
“I was photographing a bald eagle flying around hunting for an early meal when suddenly the crow approached the eagle from behind. At first I thought the crow was going to chase away the eagle.
I have seen crows harassing a hawk by swooping back and forth in order to drive it away from their territory. I was completely awed to see the crow actually land on the back of the flying eagle. It was as if it was taking a short break and at the same time a free ride. What’s more surprising was the eagle didn’t seem to mind and kept flying as if nothing happened.”

“I think the crow decided to land on the eagle because the eagle did not respond to its harassment so it landed briefly and then left.

Eventually the crow flew away and the eagle continued to hunt for its breakfast. They both flew in different directions and it looked like they became friends.”

Chan said that numerous people were fascinated by the photos, and asked him how he managed to capture them in such a short time, and he explained that ‘you have to be in the right place at the right time when it happens.’

Credits: Phoo Chan
Credits: Phoo Chan

Credits: Phoo Chan

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