Skip to content

Aerial Combat

Avian eyes, weapon wings & dive bomb mobs

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

2 min read.
two ducks fighting in the dirt photo via pexels
I'm still working on that story I mentioned in the Wings edition, but researching wings didn't give me quite enough to go on when it comes to how a cold-biome species of genetically engineered flying soldiers might fight each other. I somehow assumed that 20 years of watching movies would have given me enough to go on, but no, the world of avian battle is weirder than I expected.

Quick Facts

Fly High

The story of the eagle who ignores the pecking raven on its back and simply flies higher until the raven asphyxiates and falls is a pretty neat spin on "taking the high road." In reality, though, eagles probably avoid fighting back because they're less maneuverable and fighting carries big risks. Doesn't mean it's not good advice, though.

Territorial Talons

Many birds roll or squirm around on the ground when subduing prey or fighting. They basically wrestle with their feet and beaks, during territorial fights or when catching prey. When fighting, starlings will grab their opponent's head in their feet to try and dig their claws into each other's eyes. They'll keep going at it even if you pick them up; it can go on for like 45 minutes at a time.

Carpenter Wars

Carpenter bees engage in aerobatic melees that resemble dogfighting. Though they sometimes fight birds and small mammals, they mostly fight each other; carpenter bees are known to invade each other's territory and try to palm off their parenting responsibilities onto their neighbors. Carpenter bee fights are unusual because they happen relatively slowly, and don't privilege fast flight and sharp turns; it's more like fencing.

Mass Attack

Many flocking birds drive off predators by "mobbing" them; flying up to it and making distinctive calls to alert and summon allies. They "dive bomb" enemies and sometimes even poop on them; mostly it's more distracting than harmful, although direct attacks do happen. Owls are over 8 times more likely to hunt species that don't mob them, so it seems like it's an effective (albeit potentially dangerous) technique.


📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy Egg, a story about a dad defending his nest — or perhaps the city walls edition.

💚 If you learned something from this overview, consider forwarding it to a friend and encouraging them to sign up for more overviews of my research into obscure history and science.

✈️ Do you have a favorite book or movie involving aerial combat? Tell me about it via email or in a comment where other readers can see.

Note: There are a couple of affiliate links & codes scattered around, but these always come from links I was already recommending and usually I share them because they benefit you too (i.e. getting you extra time on trials).

Check out one of these related posts
Members Public
🎓 Feces

Antiseptic poop, agricultural poop, & the surprising value of eating poop.

🎓 Feces
Members Public
🎓 Cleaning

Quick facts about historical cleaning methods from around the world, from lotus leaves to bronze knives.

a small group cleaning out a midden pit via MidJourney AI
Members Public
🎓 Sleep

Ancient science, modern discoveries, & animals that sleep with one eye open

Photo of dolphins swimming away from the camera by Daniel Torobekov