Jun 12 2012
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.