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AstroChuck's avatar

Why do hawks get pestered by small birds?

Asked by AstroChuck (37438points) May 27th, 2008 from iPhone

It seems whenever I see a hawk overhead there are two or more small birds “attacking” it. Is this a territorial thing? Why do the hawks put up with it? It seems that the smaller birds succeed in forcing the hawk to flee when I would think they’d be outmatched.

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12 Answers

marinelife's avatar

The hawk is too close to a nest. They are probably protecting their young. Hawks will eat small birds.

Smaller birds will also attack birds of prey carrying food hoping they will drop it.

I once watched a “battle” between two hawks and an eagle. The aerial maneuvers were literally breath-taking. It was one of the most amazing things I ever saw.

bulbatron9's avatar

I guess it is kind of like two little “yappy” dogs can run off a “big brut”! He could tear their asses up, but he is just trying to avoid getting a headache!

That is the first thing that came to my mind.

buster's avatar

little birds have Napoleon Syndrome.

Mtl_zack's avatar

there was a question on my physics test about momentum, but instead of using cars, it used a halk and another bird. i looked it up because it seemed very random to put on a physics test and it turns out that hawks attack other birds because they have to keep going in their direction. its just that the other birds are in the way.

BirdlegLeft's avatar

I noticed this growing up too. My mother always said that all the hawk had to do was find someplace to perch and the smaller birds would leave it alone. However, I can’t prove this true.

PupnTaco's avatar

Hawks eat eggs and baby birds (among other things). These are parents protecting their nest.

syz's avatar

The smaller birds are more maneuverable and can (mostly) harass the raptors at will. It is an automatic response to the presence of a predator. You will often see groups of smaller birds ganging up on the larger birds – it’s called “mobbing” and increases the pressure on a predator to vacate the premises.

Blackbirds, crows and other corvids will harass birds of prey. An interesting twist is that smaller songbirds will in turn harass corvids because they will also predate fledglings and hatchlings.

bulbatron9's avatar

I lurve you syz! Just to let you know, Lilly is doing much better! Thanks for the great advice!

gailcalled's avatar

Today I saw a red-winged black bird hectoring a crow, who is much larger. They both alighted (alit?) in a tree and ceased to irritate each other.

PAMMIAM's avatar

I was told that the small birds eat insects that are attached to the feathers of the hawk. Could this be a symbiotic relationship?

vanausdr's avatar

It’s sort of like a preemptive strike…attack the enemy before it can even think about attacking me. By the way, I like that you were thinking about bird behavior during a physics test.

gailcalled's avatar

@PAMMIAM: If I were a small bird (staple of hawk’s diet), I wouldn’t want to get close enough to groom him.

It would be like a mouse wanting to ride on Milo’s tail. A bad idea.

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