Epic Clashes in the Avian World

Okay, maybe not epic…

It’s that time of year when birds are courting, building nests and raising youngsters. A big part of this activity includes defending territories and nests. I’m always amazed at how a smaller bird, albeit with its greater maneuverability, will heroically take on a much larger bird, often single-handedly, to protect its nest.

One morning recently I saw this happening above our backyard. An American Crow was perched on a power line, and a Northern Mockingbird was attempting to drive it away.

I had seen this many times in the past few months when a pair of Northern Mockingbirds built a nest in our backyard. The two young Mockingbirds from that brood have fledged and made their way to the front yard, the neighbor’s yard and beyond, so I hadn’t seen this kind of conflict recently.

I’d read that Northern Mockingbirds rarely reuse a nest so I assume that they’ve built another in the trees behind our back fence and are defending it. (Northern Mockingbirds can have 2-3 broods each year.)

It took a few charges by the Mockingbird, but eventually the Crow was driven away. I like Crows but I was happy that the Northern Mockingbird “won” this encounter.

Later that day, I saw an American Crow harassing a Red-tailed Hawk in the sky above Natural Bridges. I thought it would be funny if it was the same Crow, taking out its embarrassed defeat from the Mockingbird on the Red-tailed Hawk.

The Hawk barely seems to notice the harassment, however. A second Crow arrives to assist the first, but the Hawk continues to fly in lazy circles, eventually landing in an Eucalyptus. His demeanor suggested that he had always intended to land in that specific tree and the attempted mugging by the crows had not the least effect on him.

I have also seen ten or twelve Crows harassing a Red-tailed Hawk.

And I’ve seen one Crow harass one Red-tailed Hawk while about ten or twelve Crows perch in a nearby tree, cawing and jeering at the skirmish above. But, that Crow didn’t look like he needed any help as it flew perilously close.

Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by American Crow. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with TAMRON SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 A022, handheld, 1/1000 sec., f/6.3, ISO 250.

Bird on bird interaction is always fun to watch–even when it’s adversarial.

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June 16, 2021 6:38 pm

Love your photos. So much talent.

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