Unpopular Owls

December 11, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

Owls suffer a lot of bullying from other birds. Perhaps you’ve heard a mob of noisy blackbirds or chickadees out in the forest – they’re madly scolding something. They swoop and dive down at a shape in the trees. This shape often turns out to be an owl.

The owl may tolerate the unwanted attention. Or it might finally get fed up, and flee, often dodging the smaller birds’ strikes as it goes. This behavior is called “mobbing”. Chickadees, titmice, blackbirds, and crows are frequent “mobbers”. They use mobbing against owls, and also against hawks. A single bird may mob a hawk or owl. But usually, other birds may come join the fight, as well.

Why do they do it? Mobbing serves to drive the hawk or owl away from the smaller birds’ nests. Also, many birds-of-prey use the element of surprise in their hunting techniques. By making a racket, the mobbing birds give away the hunter’s location to all other birds in the area.

Bird-watchers can use these mobbing scenes to their best advantage. It’s a great way to get a decent look at owls, in the daytime. Next time you hear that noisy mob, scan the area with binoculars. You may be rewarded by an excellent owl sighting.

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