About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why are little birds able to harass big birds?

On the way to work I saw a big bird circling and a couple little birds chasing and attacking him. Why do these big birds put up with that? The smaller birds always seem to be able to force the big birds away. Why don’t these birds of prey just turn around and eat them?

Actually the big bird will occasionally take a whack at tormentors, but normally the mid air maneuvers required to catch the little birds would cost them too much energy. Little birds are far more agile than the big one, and choose their attacks carefully. Small birds tend to fly above a larger bird and interrupt the big bird’s flight with a series of pecks to the neck and wings.

The behavior of small birds attacking a larger predator is called "mobbing." The smaller birds are trying to drive the bigger bird out of their territory. Blue Jays and American Crows mob birds of prey all year long; while other birds like mockingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and common grackles primarily mob these big birds during the breeding season.

For the big bird, fleeing is more reasonable than expending unnecessary energy thwarting a small pest that is simply more versatile in air. However, if you're lucky you might witness a more experienced large bird using flight techniques such as barrel rolls to flash their talons at smaller birds or to get crows and ravens off their backs.


Anonymous said...

One time,
At my camp,
We were on our boat,
and saw this raptor dive out of the air with tremedous percision and speed and attack a little bird.
out of no where
a flock of like 15 little birds, were attacking and dive bombing the big bird, this fight went on for about ten to fifteen minutes they were just trying to get their friend back.
With no avail, the big bird flew off with their friend.
Very sad.

Anonymous said...

(FYI -- there's a typo in the article: "your" should be "you're".)