Black-billed Magpie Mobbing

While doing a “hawk watch” along the Colorado River on December’s trip I had the opportunity to watch another group of corvids harassing a larger bird. In this case it was a group of Black-billed Magpie mobbing a Red-tailed Hawk.

Before I relate the story it seems I keep running into this kind of action. Back in February I posted the story about a Great Horned Owl being mobbed by a flock of American Crows at Johnson County Park. And in early January I saw a group of Blue Jays harassing and chasing a Red-Shoulder Hawk in Geist Reservoir in Marion County.

Now I haven’t been out in the field much lately. So am I just stumbling upon corvids acting like this or does it happen more than I know? I really can’t answer the question but it appears to happen frequently.

Colorado Black-billed Magpie Mobbing

While scanning for raptors along the Colorado River north of Grand Junction I noticed one, then two, then several Black-billed Magpies flying to a distant tree line. Now this seemed odd since I had only seen and heard one or two in the previous hour. In fact I had noted earlier in the trip I heard many more magpies than I saw. Which struck me as acting like a Blue Jay. Not wanting to be seen unless the need arose.

It didn’t take long to figure out what was happening. The magpies were gathering in one tree. Which meant there was something present they could harass.

How many Black-billed Magpies can you spot in this photo? And the Red-tailed Hawk?

Circled in red are the ten magpies I counted though I know there are at least 5-10 more. The hawk is circled in green.

Black-billed Magpie Mobbing

The Red-tailed Hawk finally had enough and flew off.

But only a little further down the tree line before it stopped and the process started again.

Eventually the dark morph Red-tailed Hawk I had seen earlier appeared and the two flew off together. And the magpies must have lost interest since they did not pursue.

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One Response to Black-billed Magpie Mobbing

  1. Greg M says:

    A mob of Blue Jays led me to the first Great Horned Owl I ever saw about 10 years ago. And only within the last few weeks did a mob of crows help me discover another one in my yard, so anecdotally the behavior seems to be common. An interesting thing about my most recent sighting was that the crows seemed to be actively trying to destroy the owl’s hiding spot among spruce branches. They were biting the ends of branches off and dropping them on the ground seemingly to expose the owl. This was the first time I have witnessed that behavior.

    That shot of the magpie flock is an interesting one!

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