Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, Hope, Lytton, Whistler, Squamish, Powell River, Howe Sound
Greetings birders!

I'm a bird lover whose admiration far exceeds his knowledge. I'm also a model glider flyer. And that brings me to the point of this post:

Incident no.1
Last week, my small, lightweight radio controlled glider was attacked -- and brought down! -- by two small hawks working in tandem.

The attack occurred above the playing field at Sir Winston Chruchill Secondary at 57th and Heather in Vancouver. The skill and speed of the birds was a sight to behold. One of them succeeded in knocking the tail right off the glider with a single strike. Amazing.

Unfortunately, I saw the birds only in silhouette. No markings were clearly visible. However, the birds' broad wingtips were obvious, which I believe identifies them as hawks. Their wingspans were no more than half that of my glider, which has a span 1.5m. Others have suggested they might have been Cooper's Hawks or Sharp-shinned Hawks. Certainly, they were smallish.

Incident no.2
After repairs to the glider, it was again attacked several days later while flying at the same location. This time the attacking bird had the slender, tapered wingtips typical of a falcon. Size was perhaps slightly smaller than the precious attackers. Again, no marking were clearly visible.

On this second occasion, I managed to fly the glider out of danger -- but only after a protracted chase, up and downwind, zigging, zagging, diving and climbing. It was touch and go. Again, the bird's agility and speed were amazing to behold. Later, looking in Peterson's, I thought it might have been a Kestral.

In the several years I've been flying model gliders, I've experienced only one prior bird attack. And that one was by a larger Hawk, in late spring time, over rural farmland which I took to be the bird's hunting territory. That attack was only half-hearted compared to the ones described above.

I'll also add that, in my experience, the park at 57th and Heather sees more bird of prey flyovers than other nearby parks. Might it be under a common route for birds to 'commute' back and forth from the river, Richmond, and beyond to points north? From flying gliders, I know the location is good for thermal lift. Updrafts of 'slope lift' also occur there.

Let me hasten to add that I am always respectful of all birds while flying model gliders, and purposefully avoid them. Their natural ability to fly is inspiring to me. In a small way, vicariously, flying model gliders allows me to share their world.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or information the more knowledgeable can share.

Awesome! Thanks for the help, Rob.

And yes, it was an experience to remember. It definitely got my heart racing, the more so since I knew the stakes from the previous experience.

The gliders I fly have a small electric motor and propeller on the nose, which I use to climb to soaring altitude (~100m). I'm convinced that it was only that artificial ability to climb that allowed escape from the falcon.

From now on, I'll pack my birding book and a pair of small binocs with me when I go flying.

Another RC glider pilot posted some absolutely outstanding photos and video on this topic in a model airplane forum. The images were captured with a small video camera mounted to the glider. The attacking bird was identified as a Prairie Falcon. The location is near Redwood City, CA.
Below is a video of a prairie falcon chasing a Nemesis 1.5 meter glider. This falcon visited a local soaring site for a couple weeks and appears to be a large female based on size and wingspan. She was aggressively playful and preyed on a variety of birds. She chased the sailplane after noticing it doing pumps and dives from the other side of park where she resided. We flew together for 10 to 20 minutes on 5 different occasions over 10 days. When she migrated away it felt like losing a flying buddy. Hope she comes back to play some more.

Stills in a slideshow

Discussion thread ... n-by-hawks

Isn't it wonderful to be surrounded by wild creatures? Same world, different reality. Puts thing back in perspective for me.
Amazing video. I had never heard of this happening before, but it makes sense they would check out other "birds" in their area. And I believe the falcon is a Peregrine - the wide facial marks and the lack of dark axillary (armpit) feathers would suggest it is not a Prairie Falcon.
You awoke my curiosity about Peregrines and Prairie Falcons. Thanks for mentioning the differences. Now I know what to look for, should the need arise.

About 5 years ago, I did get a good sighting of what I took to be a Peregrine. It was perched on a high windowsill directly across Water street from my office in Gastown. The day was miserable rainy and cold in winter or early spring, as I recall. The bird seemed quite willing to take a good long break from the conditions. Unfortunately, I missed its departure and didn't see it in flight.
Id help

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