I have witnessed the turf wars in my neighborhood on a daily basis this last month or so, but recently I have noticed some different negotiations. Tensions appear to still be high, but the focus of both sides seems to be divided. There is work to be done and it’s hard to yell obscenities at your enemies when your beaks are full of twigs. The Sharp Shinned Hawk has fully claimed the pine tree on the north side of the park and one of the crow couples is building their dowry bowery at the top of the pine tree on the south side. Yesterday I heard it, the proclamation:
“Ok fine. But just stay on your side. We know where you live.”
I had a conversation with someone recently in which I realized that not everyone understands why songbirds and corvids “mob” birds of prey. It’s not because crows are jerks. It *is* partly about territory. But two of the reasons why territory is important include 1. Territory is the area in which food is found, and crows don’t want to BE food and 2. Territory is where babies are born so….see number one. Crows hang out in murders, and when they find a hawk in their territory, they do preemptive strikes to drive the hawks out. From watching their dance in the skies, and knowing the playful and curious nature of corvids, I also think there is an element of enjoying the challenge and the chase. When I see the crows chasing the red tails at secret beach, there is a relaxed element to it. “Oh, look at that Jenny. It’s two o’clock. Time to chase Mr. Accipiter from his roost.”. Business as usual.
This type of behavior does not only happen between crows and hawks. Many songbirds will dive bomb a potential predator. This has got to be a stressful occupation, especially if one’s nest happens to be surrounded by predators. Take, for instance, the black birds that nest around Church and Market in San Francisco. I have been followed for five blocks by several marauders trying to bomb my dog. My housemate was attacked while drinking his coffee at the Starbucks next to Safeway. You would think that with a constant stream of pedestrians the black birds would be so busy chasing people that raising babies would be unsuccessful and yet…year after year they come back.
In case you have never witnessed crows in action, here is a video that I also did not take. I like the “audience” in the beginning.
And…what’s that? BATS vs. Crows? I learn something new everyday.