DEAR JOAN: This afternoon I saw what appeared to be five crows pursuing a red-tailed hawk while squawking loudly.
The hawk definitely appeared to be trying to get away and the crows weren’t backing off. What do you think was going on?
A fan, Brentwood
DEAR FAN: I started writing this column almost seven years ago (where does the time go?), and on average, I’d say once a month I write something on crows and how smart they are. But how wise is it to antagonize a faster, stronger bird with very sharp talons?
It’s not quite the lunacy it appears. Crows — and ravens and sometimes scrub-jays — will go after hawks and owls, their natural enemies.
Crows, however, seldom go after these raptors alone. They usually swarm the hawk, counting on their numbers to keep the raptor off balance, not knowing which bird to go after. The crows also squawk madly, which may further confound the hawk.
Crows are about the same size as some of the smaller hawks, such as the Cooper’s, and only slightly smaller than the bigger raptors. While the hawks’ strengths are their talons and feet, the crows have powerful beaks that the hawks know can deliver savage blows. If the hawk doesn’t escape, it risks being pecked to death by the mob of crows.
Given that and the numbers advantage, crows often are successful at driving birds of prey out of their territory, which is what was going on with the birds you saw.
Crows will tirelessly defend their territory, but as it’s mating and nesting season, the birds you saw likely were trying to keep the nests and babies safe from the hawk.
Animals on Broadway
Time is getting short, but you can still plan to attend Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s annual fund-raising event, Animals on Broadway. The extravaganza is set for Sunday, May 19, at Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek.
It’s easy to do, and loads of fun. ARF is hoping to raise $100,000 through its Pet Walk. You can sign up to create a team, join an existing team or walk on your own — or simply pledge money to ARF, which uses proceeds toward its core goal of rescuing pets and finding them homes.
To register, go to arf.donordrive.com.
The walk starts at 10:30 a.m. The community pet fair opens at 11 a.m. with vendors, a pet wellness fair and various demonstrations, including one from the Walnut Creek Police Department’s K9 Unit. And, of course, there will be lots of animals up for adoption. There also will be a best dressed pet contest at 11:30 a.m.
New zoo resident
Oakland Zoo has a new cotton-topped tamarin male, Alberto, who arrived in Oakland from Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas. Alberto has been introduced to Electra, a female tamarin at Oakland Zoo that has been alone since the death of her mate, Felix, last year.
Zookeepers are optimistic that the match will be a success and the pair will mate, helping to preserve a species that faces many threats in the wild.
Why were the crows attacking a red-tailed hawk?