Owl vs. raven: angry birds brawl in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.
'Maybe an older bird would know better than to try attacking a raven,' says owl expert
There's a war brewing in Fort Chipewyan's avian community.
A video posted on Facebook earlier this week shows a raven and a snowy owl battling it out in front of the nursing station.
The two appear to be attacking each other, but there is no blood visible. The birds can be heard screaming.
"It's a little emotional to see animals fighting," said Fredrick Kevin Ellingson, who shot the video.
Ellingson works security at the nursing station, and on one of his patrols inside the building happened to notice a tussle outside.
As Ellingson observed the brawl, no clear winner emerged.
"I actually thought the raven actually had the upper hand," he said.
But then again, he added, the raven was "trying to get away and the owl definitely had a good grip with his talons.
Later, when Ellingson returned to the scene of the fight, the birds were gone and all that remained were feathers.
"There was actually only one, large raven feather. All the other feathers that were around were from the owl."
There was no blood.
Ellingson went on a search for the winged-wrestlers, but alas, they could not be found. He said he thinks they "shook hands and parted ways."
Looking for a snack
With the caveat that "I'm not the science person," Ellingson guesses the birds were fighting over territory.
But that may not be the case, according to Matt Larson, a researcher with the Owl Research Institute in Montana.
Larson said it looks like a young, female snowy owl is trying to "eat some raven for dinner."
"Snowy owls are really capable predators," said Larson. He said they've been known to attack geese, glaucous gulls and at least one young Arctic fox.
But Larson does think "it's probably pretty rare" for a snowy owl to attack a raven. He said it might be the case that it's the owl's first winter and "it's not quite the efficient hunter that maybe an adult is."
"Maybe an older bird would know better than to try attacking a raven, but if you're hungry and it looks good, you know, maybe give it a try."
He said it's unlikely that the raven went after the owl as food, although the birds sometimes do what is called "mobbing." That's when they group together to shoo other birds away from an area.
On Wednesday in Fort Chipewyan, Kevin Murphy stumbled upon another strange scene involving ravens and a snowy owl. This time it was outside of the Northern Store.
He wrote in to CBC North's Facebook page to say 30 to 40 ravens were in the trees. It looked like they were surrounding and harassing an exhausted snowy owl. He said that the eeriest part of the experience was that the birds were silent — "no noise or cawing at all." The ravens sat in the trees watching the owl.
Murphy made the connection to Ellingson's video and wrote: "Seems like the ravens took care of business."
With files from Peter Sheldon and Lawrence Nayally