In my last post, I described a few members of the avian world who tend to get wild and angry. I mentioned how little chickadees hammer my hand with their tiny bills and hummingbirds act like they’re B-52 bombers. Now is the time to move on to the really angry birds. The ones with anger issues who have the weapons to really inflict some damage. Some of these birds have legit reasons for being upset, others just want to watch the world burn.
The Dark Kites rise from the ashes.
There have probably been a few times where you heard a flock of crows screaming incessantly. Many times, this means that danger is near. If an owl is in the vicinity, crows will harass the owl in an effort to drive it away. Owls have been known to hunt and kill crows and other birds in the night, so the crows have reason to be angry. By the way, did you know that a group of crows is called a murder? Sounds like the anger and violence goes both ways! Anyway, crows will not only yell loudly, but they also may swoop down at the owl. Jays and other birds will also harass owls in this fashion. The owl will usually grow tired of the noise and retreat to a quieter place. However, there have been some cases where the owl strikes out and kills a mobbing bird! On the other hand, mobbing crows have also been known to injure or even kill owls!
Left – crows surround a Barn Owl. Right – awesome picture by Jim Neiger of a crow bombing a Great Horned Owl.
As much as I love owls, I’m not going to pretend that they never get angry and are always the victims of rage. Owls can become quite agitated if something or someone disturbs their nesting site and threatens their chicks. Last year, a number of people hiking in a park in Salem, Oregon inadvertently stumbled into owl territory and were attacked by an angry Barred Owl. The owl became notorious for attacking hikers and was nicknamed “Owlcapone”. Many of the victims reported being struck on the head and sustaining minor cuts. Owls have been known to inflict much worse injuries and even gone for the face with their sharp talons. Officials in the area warned hikers to stay vigilant and to carry an umbrella or wear protective gear, such as a hat.
Actual sign used by the Salem Parks Foundation.
Barred Owls are fairly common in many areas of the U.S.
Owls are not the only raptors known for being angry attackers during the breeding season. Many other birds of prey also will strike unfortunate victims who come to close to their nest or their young. In fact, researchers studying Peregrine Falcons often wear hard hats and protective clothing when checking on nesting sites for population or behavioral studies. The falcons have been known to dive-bomb and strike their talons across a person’s head. Making things especially tricky is the fact that Peregrines often nest in high places, such as cliff faces or tall buildings. Even with the hard hats, the force of the strikes can still be felt! Of course, no one can really blame these birds for getting angry, they’re just instinctively protecting their homes and their children. Researchers, such as those from the Peregrine Fund, have played a major part in the successful revival of Peregrine Falcon populations. Peregrines where on the endangered species list due to toxic chemicals such as DDT, which contaminated the environment and the prey that the falcons were consuming. This led to a thinning of eggs shells, which meant that the eggs were often crushed under the weight of an incubating parent. Peregrine Falcons are now doing fairly well across the world, though scientists are still trying to learn more about these amazing birds that can dive at speeds of over 200mph!
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning about a few angry birds and have gained some insights into their behavior. I encourage you to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the nature around you. Watch angry cardinals munch on seeds. Observe the flock of crows mobbing a predator. Enjoying the scintillating battles between angry hummingbirds. Gaze in awe at the powerful owls and falcons. My next blog will detail some of the personal experiences I’ve had with crows and birds of prey. Until then, watch out for angry birds and cover your face if an owl attacks!