May 14 2008
The last time I saw a crow it was being attacked by three grackles. In fact every time I see a crow lately, it’s under attack. What gives? Why are little birds attacking big ones?
Pittsburgh’s huge winter flock of crows dispersed by the end of March. Since then the remaining crows have been secretive. No raucous parties for them! They’re up to the serious business of nesting and they don’t want us to find them. For all intents and purposes, the crows have disappeared.
Meanwhile, the songbirds came home to nest. By now, grackles, starlings and robins have young to feed. So do the crows.
Crows prefer to eat meat if they can get it. I’ve seen a crow raid a pigeon nest and carry two eggs in its beak back to its own nest. They’ll also steal nestlings.
So even though the crows are keeping a low profile, the songbirds know that crows will eat their eggs and chicks if they get a chance. Long before the crow can find their nests, the songbirds gang up and loudly attack the crow. The noise attracts reinforcements. If the attack works the crow leaves the area.
At this time of year you will often see little birds attacking big ones. The birds they attack are threats to their nests:
Crows attack red-tailed hawks,
Grackles and blue jays attack crows,
Chickadees attack blue jays.
When they’re nesting, a bird’s best defense is a good offense.