Jun 12 2012

I Don’t Care How Big You Are

Published by at 7:30 am under Bird Behavior,Birds of Prey

In June I can hear the locations of red-tailed hawks before I see them, not because the hawks are making any noise but because they're surrounded by crowds of small birds who are shouting at them.

The hawks are huge, the songbirds small, so the birds of prey try to ignore their tormentors and find food -- a mouse, a rabbit, an exposed fledgling songbird -- but that's exactly why they attract a crowd.

Tom Merriman found this red-tail in Mount Oliver with his back turned to the shouting. Did it work?

Probably not. It's mighty hard to hunt by stealth when everyone knows you're there.  If the songbirds sustain their attack the hawk usually gives up and leaves without catching anything.

Peregrines attack bald eagles.  Robins harass red-tails.  Chickadees chase blue jays. All of them shout, "I don't care how big you are.  Stay away from my babies!"


(photo by Tom Merriman)

p.s. This photo has an imbedded quiz.  Can you identify the small bird harassing the red-tailed hawk? Leave a comment with your answer.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “I Don’t Care How Big You Are”

  1. Donnaon 12 Jun 2012 at 8:04 am

    My first thought was a common grackle, but I think they are bigger than this one. Maybe a gray catbird?

  2. Stephenon 12 Jun 2012 at 9:07 am

    I’m thinking Red-winged Blackbird.

  3. Yvonneon 12 Jun 2012 at 9:54 am

    Gray Catbird.

  4. Mary DeVon 12 Jun 2012 at 10:47 am

    Ha, I saw something like that on my travels this weekend. A pair of little birds (starlings, I think) chasing an immature redtail across the highway. LOL, I did a lot of “Birding at 70 mph” the past few days.

  5. Meron 12 Jun 2012 at 10:53 am

    red-winged blackbird, but I could see grackle.

  6. Kate St. Johnon 12 Jun 2012 at 11:04 am

    I had been thinking “catbird” but the posts saying “red-winged blackbird” have made me reconsider. Tricky!

  7. Coleenon 12 Jun 2012 at 11:53 am

    I vote for red-winged blackbird; that was my first thought. It just looks like the right shape, size and pose. But I didn’t know we had any in Mount Oliver. Don’t they usually like open fields?

  8. Kate St. Johnon 12 Jun 2012 at 11:56 am

    That’s exactly why I didn’t think of red-winged blackbirds… because I didn’t think they were in Mt. Oliver. So I’m really not sure anymore.

  9. Rob Protzon 12 Jun 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Red-wings usually hang out near or in wetlands, or some kind of area where water is nearby. But there’s a lot of small wetland areas that are obscure, so it could be.

  10. Linda Hon 12 Jun 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Actually I live between Mt. Oliver and South Side and have a red winged blackbird visit my yard and bird feeder regularly. I think it is a starling or grackel, we have a ton of those around……The hawk needs to grab pigeons….too many of those

  11. Candyon 12 Jun 2012 at 4:22 pm

    My first thought was grackle, but what about a blue jay? The crest might not be visible from this angle. I don’t think it’s a starling because the tail is too long.

  12. Tom Merrimanon 14 Jun 2012 at 9:19 am

    I think it is a catbird. When I took the picture there was such strong back lighting from the sky that I couldn’t make out much detail but I probably would have noticed the red wing patches of a red wing blackbird.

  13. Kate St. Johnon 14 Jun 2012 at 9:21 am

    So it was a catbird! That was my initial guess and it fits with the habitat and you were there to see it. Thanks for the photo, Tom.

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