Kleptoparasitism by Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) as a factor in reducing Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) predation on Dunlin (Calidris alpina) wintering in British Columbia


  • Dick Dekker 3819-112 A Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta T6J 1K4
  • Mark C. Drever Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, 5421 Robertson Road, Delta, British Columbia V4K 3N2




Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, kleptoparasitism, Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, predation, Dunlin, Calidris alpina, British Columbia


Kleptoparasitism, or food piracy, is common in a wide range of taxa, particularly among predators, with the larger species forcing smaller species to surrender their catch. The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is known to rob Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) of just-caught prey. We present time series of kleptoparasitic interactions between eagles and peregrines hunting Dunlin (Calidris alpina) that were wintering at Boundary Bay in the Fraser River valley, British Columbia. In 1108 hours of observation during January, intermittently between 1994 and 2014, we recorded 667 sightings of Peregrine Falcons, including 817 attacks on Dunlin resulting in 120 captures. The population of wintering Bald Eagles in the study area increased from about 200 in 1994 to 1800 in 2014, while the rate of kleptoparasitism at the expense of peregrines increased from 0.05 to 0.20. The increase in the number of Bald Eagles coincided with a decline in January sightings of Peregrine Falcons, which suggests that some falcons may have left the study area because of interference from eagles. The decrease in Peregrine Falcon numbers can be expected to have led to reduced predation risk for Dunlins. Christmas Bird Counts conducted in the Fraser River Valley have underscored the fluctuation in eagle and peregrine numbers reported here.