Beaverton Bird Watch: Ravens vs Raptors

By Anne Harris03 Ravens vs raptors

Part of the fun of bird behavior is figuring out why they do the perplexing things they do.

Take “mobbing,” for example. Mobbing is a coordinated swarming technique employed by some birds, like crows, to oust competitors or predators from their territory by making a lot of noise and annoying the heck out of their target by obstructing its flight path.

Beaverton’s most common raptor (bird of prey) and frequent object of crow-mobbing is the red-tail hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a 36-inch-long, 2-1/2 pound hunter with a wingspan of around 3 feet.

Perhaps you’ve noticed them spiraling in the sky far above you on the updrafts that carry them effortlessly over their wide-ranging hunting grounds, often silently, but sometimes calling (in a screech that’s been hijacked by Hollywood to speak for all hawks, falcons and even eagles) to its lifelong mate or its young.

Personally, I’d think twice about playing chicken with a chicken hawk capable of mid-flight barrel rolls and 120 mph nose dives, but the raven versus raptor mobbing ruckus rarely ends badly; the red-tails move on down the road and the crows resume taunting people and each other.

Anne Harris is a local author who finds watching her avian neighbors quite fascinating as they loudly inhabit a mixed stand of conifers and broadleaf trees behind her home. “Provide food and they will come,” is what she discovered, and has been avidly studying their diverse habits ever since.