Mobbing is a common phenomena which you can sometimes observe while looking out your window or doing something outside. Typically, when you see a large flock of Crows, there is a good chance that they are mobbing a Raptor of some sort.
Crows execute this behavior for fairly simple reasons. The ideology of the Crows is that they can annoy the bird enough so it moves out of the area. Why would they want it to move? Adult Crows are very rarely hunted by Raptors. Which would give the flying mob members nothing to worry about right?
The Crows are not worried for their own safety, but that of their chicks. Raptors will indeed take advantage of baby Crows for a quick meal when possible. However, Crows do an amazing job of keeping birds of prey away from their nests.
The Crow mobs the Hawk. The Hawk is content to move. The Crows leave it alone after the Hawk is gone. This is the basic structure of the Crows’ idea. In order to keep the Raptor from endangering the Crow babies, they opt to drive it from the area by mobbing it.
Why doesn’t a Raptor just reach out its huge talons and silence the pestering birds? Crows are very agile birds, not to mention very smart. The effort required to secure a Crow in a Hawk’s talons is often not worth it. The Raptor has a good chance of succeeding, but it would rather move hunting grounds and go after a tasty rabbit or fish than a Crow.
Will Crows try to pull feathers out and kill a Raptor? Attempts have been made before by Crows to pull out feathers of Hawks, but it is rare. Even though Crows might succeed in knocking a Hawk down, they probably will not try to kill it.
Owls are in substantially more danger from Crows than Hawks. Especially for ones like Long-eared Owl, they have to stay hidden while hunting, in order not to alert their presence to Crows.
Birders also must keep this in mind. Calling an Owl using playback can result in jeopardizing an Owl’s location and thus should be rarely or not at all. Owls don’t have amazing camouflage just for hunting rodents! It serves the purpose of keeping themselves out of danger.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the idea behind mobbing and why Raptors tolerate it. Check back soon for more posts, and happy birding!
- John Mark