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Dear experts, a new question for you:

Are the short-ear owls that I photoed in Brunswick Point fighting or playing with each other in the following photos? When I took the pictures, I thought they were fighting, but the photos seem to suggest otherwise. Your help will be much appreciated. ... en-public/ ... en-public/ ... en-public/ ... en-public/ ... en-public/ ... en-public/
Wow, you captured some rare images here!

Ok, now I am no expert when it comes to Short-eared Owl but I do know some stuff that would be plausible in this instance.

Short-eared Owls arrive on the Fraser delta in winter to feed on the abundance (hopefully) of voles and mice and other small mammals in the fields. These owls are not mating yet so the fight display is more likely over food (I want to steal it) or hunting territory (like this field is not big enough for the both of us) with the intent to drive off the rival bird. In territorial skirmishes, Short-eared Owls fly rapidly at each other, pulling up and presenting their talons at the last moment.

Looking at the photos, I would guess this is a territorial skirmish and one bird is trying to drive off the other. The fight itself is more like a slap feast/cat fight. For animals, it is dangerous to fight so not matter how triggered one bird is to go after another, there is some instinct in there to not risk injury.

That is what I see, I open the discussion to others to weigh in.

Alan, those are awesome pictures - the kind we all dream of taking. Congratulations!
I agree that this probably a territorial dispute between the 2 owls. As far as I know, not many birds are known to engage in ‘play’ behaviour; maybe a couple in the corvid family - crows, magpies, etc. I have never heard of any raptor species doing it.
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