Rare photo shows crow riding atop a flying bald eagle

A crow rides atop a flying bald eagle, "as if it was taking a free scenic ride." Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission
A crow rides atop a flying bald eagle, “as if it was taking a free scenic ride.” Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission

Phoo Chan was photographing a bald eagle hunting for food in Seabeck, Washington, when something very curious and highly unusual happened: A crow approached the flying bald eagle from behind, landed on its back and hitched a free ride.

Being in the right place at the right time, Chan managed to click off a series of once-in-a-lifetime photos of the rare event in nature.

“At first I thought the crow was going to chase away the eagle,” Chan told Daily Mail. “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.”

The crow approached the bald eagle from behind and took up a position atop its back. Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission
The crow approached the bald eagle from behind and took up a position atop its back. Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission

Chan, an amateur bird photographer from Fremont, California, has had some of his work featured in National Geographic, and it would be surprising if the series of photos he took of the crow landing and hitching a ride on the back of a bald eagle don’t get NatGeo’s attention, too.

The common theory as to why crows harass bald eagles and hawks is that they are defending their territory and/or protecting their nest from a predator.

So why do eagles and hawks put up with an annoying crow when if they’d just grab it with their talons that would be the end of the crow?

Ornithologists told a researcher at Savannah River Ecology Laboratory that though large raptors have the necessary weapons, the energy cost of pursuing and catching the crow is normally not worth it.

In this case, the bald eagle simply put up with the crow.

Bird photographer Phoo Chan was in the first place at the right time to capture the moment a crow took a ride atop a bald eagle in flight. Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission
Bird photographer Phoo Chan was in the first place at the right time to capture the moment a crow took a ride atop a bald eagle in flight. Photo: Phoo Chan/Media Drum World, used with permission

“The crow did not seem to harass the bald eagle at such close proximity and neither did the bald eagle seem to mind the crow’s presence invading its personal space,” Chan explained to Bored Panda, adding that it was as if the crow “was taking a free scenic ride and the eagle simply obliged.”

Chan told Daily Mail he believed the crow decided to land on the bald eagle because it didn’t respond to its harassment.

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

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