Photography brings us a little closer to wildlife that we wouldn’t be able to explore in its natural habitat. And while making it possible for us, wildlife photographers sometimes capture rare and expressive images, like this perfectly timed photo series of a seamless prey exchange mid-air. This set of fantastic shots, caught on camera by wildlife photographer Patrick Coughlin, shows female and male northern harriers sharing their prey for possible nestlings.

36-year-old Northern California-based photographer shared his lucky find on Twitter―a weirdly dramatic and suspenseful story is created just through just three pictures. We have reached out to Patrick Coughlin, so scroll down to learn more!

More info: Instagram | twitter.com

A male initiates the exchange by dropping the prey

Image credits: @myrgard

“The birds are northern harriers, a male on the top and female making the catch. While they are raising nestlings, the male will do most of the hunting and bring prey back to the female watching the nest. The photos capture that moment,” the photographer told Bored Panda.

A female positions to grab the prey whilst mid-air

Image credits: @myrgard

“Prey transfer is common behavior for Northern Harriers, but challenging to shoot; this whole sequence took place in less than a second. I had scouted this pair prior to shooting anything and picked my shooting location based on time of day, light, and wind. After that it is mostly patience, I took over 3000 photos of this pair, including fly-bys and prey transfers that were too far away, before getting these 3. It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure that I had gotten the shots at the moment. I knew the exchange had happened but I had no idea if I’d gotten the birds in frame and in focus until I reviewed my shots back at home.”

Mission completed

Image credits: @myrgard

These birds of prey are very common across North America and Canada. Northern harriers are the most owl-like of hawks, which helps them hear better as they rely on their hearing and vision when hunting. They mostly hunt small mammals and birds and the male will do the job while the female will look after the nest. In fact, one northern harrier might have more families to care about as these raptors are one of the few bird species to practice polygyny and one male can mate with up to five females.

Patrick Coughlin, who has been photographing wildlife mostly as a hobbyist for about six years, says that unpredictability is both the most challenging and the most exciting thing about wildlife photography.

“Some of my favorite encounters have been entirely unexpected and I’m never sure what I’ll find each time I go out. I love all wildlife photography but capturing interesting behavior like this and being able to clearly see a moment that happens almost too fast to see in real-time is really special.”

Although capturing the perfect shot might become a goal for many, this photographer says that respecting wildlife and nature must come first. “It is easy, especially in wildlife photography, to start to prioritize getting the photo over the welfare of the animals and the environment they live in. I always make sure that I am not disturbing the animals or disrupting their behaviors. This means no bait, no calls, and making sure that I’m keeping a respectful distance.”

People were amazed with the sequence and some even spotted decent meme material

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