Water Tower Drama: Hawk versus Crow

I am trying to work, when the cawing of crows catches my attention. Grateful for the distraction, I rush happily to the window.

A crow perches on a water tower.

A crow perches on a water tower.

Nice, but why the loud caws?  Aha! Just a little further east, a red-tailed hawk is perched on another water tower.

Red-tailed hawk perches on water tower.

I grab the camera, knowing an everyday avian drama is about to unfold.  The first crow has been radioing for reinforcements, and back-up soon arrives.

Two against one; crows on the left, hawk on the right.

When the second crow is in place on the water tower, the first soars off to launch an attack.

The attack begins.

 Two more crows gather on neighboring water towers and rooftops. Cawing loudly, they seem to serve as cheerleaders for the first two, which take turns harassing the hawk.

Crow prepares to dive bomb red-tail.

The crows work in tandem, swooping in on the hunkered-down hawk.

Watch out!

The crows land on the dome of the water tower, beneath the hawk. Just as it appears that an uneasy peace may have been reached, the crows take off and launch another attack. This time, the beleaguered hawk has had enough. It spreads its wings, and takes flight, heading east.

Enough, already. Uncle, uncle.

The small flock of crows flies off towards the southwest, having established temporary dominion over one of Manhattan’s top avian predators.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, Birds, Fall, Hawks, In the City, November, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History

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14 Comments on “Water Tower Drama: Hawk versus Crow”

  1. […] hawk. I’ve seen squirrels seem to taunt a perched hawk, and the sight of crows or jays mobbing a hawk is fairly common. In rural areas, Red-tailed hawks dine mostly on rodents, but here in the city […]

  2. dieta Says:

    Though humans cannot generally tell individual crows apart, crows have been shown to have the ability to visually recognize individual humans, and to transmit information about “bad” humans by squawking.

  3. […] they perch on water towers. November 8. The crow over head is part of a gang of crows that harassed the […]

  4. mthew Says:

    Saw eight of them chasing off a red-tail recently. Teamwork.

  5. p hoey Says:

    A marvelous vignette, beautifully caught on camera. O the power of community action!

    Thank you, Melissa.

  6. Barbara Says:

    Hawks are pretty smart birds and know that a crow on the roof is worth avoiding at all costs…I always feel sorry for the hawks and owls, even a raven or two who isn’t a local, wherever they are – city or country, when a bunch of those noisy community watchbirds (blue jays and crows) spy them… it’s always a bit of a circus with the larger bird doing its best to am-scray without getting too battered.

    Fabulous shots of this encounter Melissa – you caught the whole story! What a treat.

  7. Kelly Rypkema Says:

    Anytime I hear jays, crows, and other birds raising a ruckus, I figure it’s worth a look up. I’m always amazed how the raptors just take it. How cool that you caught the mobbing from the very start!

    • The raptors do just kind of put their heads down like big lugs and take the pummeling, don’t they? These crows were doing some serious dive-bombing, too, that my camera (and primitive camera skills) just couldn’t capture.

  8. CGJ Says:

    I find this behavior fascinating. You might expect the well armed hawk to have the upper hand in these kind of encounters with crows, but I’ve never seen it work out any other way. I’ve also observed smaller birds like Blue Jays, Northern Mockingbirds, and Great-tailed Grackles successfully mob and drive off Red-tailed Hawks.

    • I’ve also seen squirrels appear to tease a hawk that is perched just a few feet away in the same tree. Do they know that the hawk is (relatively) harmless when it can’t swoop down with its talons out? I agree: it is fascinating.

  9. joan knapp Says:

    Hawks have a tough time when crows are around, don’t they. It’s sad.

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