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 5, 2013

Bizarre bird behavior: Why small birds attack a big bird

It seems whenever I see a hawk overhead there are two or more small birds “attacking” it. Is this a territorial thing? Why do the hawks put up with it?

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.
Photographer Rob Palmer
captured this incredible picture in Colorado.

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 your 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.
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