Why do small birds chase big birds? The answer is to drive them away and to defend territories.
It might seem like a cute sight to see small birds follow hawks, but the reason behind such an act is less wholesome. Let’s learn why this happens and how the little birds survive despite chasing a huge bird.
Reasons Why Small Birds Mob Big Birds
Have you seen aggressive small birds going after raptors larger than them? The behavior you just witnessed is called bird mobbing. It might seem cute and entertaining to watch, but a lot is happening here.
Songbirds don’t always run away when there is danger. Smaller birds also fight back no matter the size of their predator. It is a part of their survival skills that are passed and sharpened over several generations.
The usual mobbing bird species are crows, chickadees, jays, blackbirds, titmice, and kingbirds.
Those who get mobbed are predatory avians like ospreys, herons, owls, and hawks, but they may also be any smaller birds that pose a threat.
Mobbing happens all year round, but they are more frequent during spring when the breeding season is underway. There are eggs and younglings in almost every nest, and every bird is more hostile than it normally is.
- The main reason songbirds chase eagles and other large birds is to defend their territories. During mating season, male birds will also chase away competitors for a higher chance of attracting a prospective mate.
- Once the eggs are laid or the young ones hatched, the birds will attack potential nest raiders and predators. Humans and their pets are no exception.
- Some territories have a nearby food source, like fruit-bearing trees or a bird feeder. Birds will also assertively defend these things, since their survival depends on sustenance.
- Even when the feeder comes with food that is not part of their diet, some bird species like mockingbirds will guard it no matter what.
If one small bird can’t get the intruder to leave, they will sound their alarm calls, attracting not only their own kind but also other songbird species. Setting aside their differences, the mixed group of avians will swarm their common enemy until it leaves.
Owls are always the victim of bird mobbing. It’s because they perch on branches near the birds’ territories and prey on them while they sleep. That is why before calling it a night, small birds will drive owls away.
You may think: The mobbing target is larger and will surely win in a fight, so why don’t they defend themselves against the small mobbers?
- First, it is challenging and dangerous for larger birds to maneuver while flying. There is also the risk of collision and injury.
- In addition, small birds are more agile and can quickly escape if the tables are turned. Here, it is better for the target to flee than defend itself or strike back. It’s not worth the effort and comes with more risks than rewards.
Small birds attacking other birds is not for show or just because they feel like doing it. They need to do it for the safety of their family and to protect their territories and food sources.
Mobbing also tends to be harmless to the predatory birds, so long as they leave the mobbers alone and leave.
Isn’t the answer to the question “Why do small birds chase big birds?” fascinating? Who would’ve thought there was an explanation for such behavior? It surely is an interesting thing everyone fascinated by birds should know.
Have you witnessed any small birds like starlings chase crows? How did it end? Share your experience with us or let us know what you want to read next!
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.