It may come as a surprise when you see ravens chasing hawks, but they are natural predators of ravens, so you may wonder if it’s dangerous for ravens to intentionally get so close. But this is a good strategy for the raven in protecting its nest.
Why do ravens go after hawks?
Ravens chase hawks to keep them away from their nests, eggs, and hatchlings. By working together in groups, they can successfully scare away the predators without sustaining any injuries. Many other small birds use the same strategy, and birds of different species will even work together.
Ravens Protect Their Territories From Hawks
Ravens, crows, and scrub jays chase large birds of prey like hawks and owls.
Usually, they’re smaller and seem outmatched, but some crows are as big as small hawks, and even the smaller birds have strategies for keeping birds of prey at bay.
They do this because otherwise, the birds of prey might attack their nests and hatchlings. Let’s take a look at some of their protection strategies.
One of the biggest strategies ravens use when chasing away a hawk is called mobbing.
Hawks usually attack alone, and ravens take advantage of this by calling in support from other ravens in their territory and surrounding the hawk.
Together, they can push the hawk out of the raven territory and keep their hatchlings safe.
Many little birds use mobbing as a way to keep hawks away from their territories. The birds who do this include:
They’ll chase away not only hawks but also herons, owls, crows, and even ravens.
Sometimes birds will do this to protect their food sources, and other times they’ll do this to protect their nests from predators.
In some cases, birds of different species will even band together to take on a predator by making calls that sound similar to each other regardless of species.
Some bird watchers have learned how to make these mobbing calls, and they’ll use them to call many different kinds of birds into view.
Owls tend to be even more common targets for mobbing than hawks because they tend to prey on sleeping birds.
Birds will chase owls out of their territory during the day so that they’re able to sleep safely at night.
Mobbing will not usually injure the target bird, but it also doesn’t put the smaller birds at risk.
The smaller birds will often surprise and scare away the larger bird without doing any damage.
How Else Do Ravens Defend Their Territory?
When they’re young, ravens will develop a territory along with a flock of other young birds. Then as they get older, they’ll establish territory along with their mate.
Ravens will defend this territory by flying around the perimeter and swooping down in the air, rolling and looping as they do.
They also defend their nests by cackling and dropping projectiles at threatening intruders.
Ravens have an advantage in protecting their territory because they are flock birds. Acting together as a flock allows them to chase away larger predators and more threats from their territory.
Natural Enemies of the Raven
Ravens have many natural enemies, including the hawk. And, ravens are prey to numerous other species as well. They are omnivores, which means that they eat both animal and plant matter.
Ravens Prey Upon Other Animals
Ravens have been known to prey upon the eggs and nestlings of coastal seabirds, rodents, worms, insects, and even the hatchlings of other ravens.
They also eat carrion from many different species and whatever they can find in human garbage, including a range of animal matter.
For ravens, mobbing is both a way to protect themselves from large predators and bring down large prey. When ravens hunt in flocks, they go after larger animals and attack more aggressively.
Ravens have even been known to attack small newborn livestock and arctic foxes when they attack in groups.
Ravens will also steal the prey of other animals after they’ve been hunted. One raven will distract the eating animal while the other swoops in and grabs the food.
They will also attack crow nests to steal their eggs. For this reason, crows will use the technique of mobbing against ravens to keep them away.
This behavior is especially common to see in the breeding season when there are vulnerable hatchlings to protect.
Mobbing is sometimes successful against ravens, but not in all cases. Often ravens will continue hunting crow nests without being bothered and will roll out of the way of the worst of the pecking and diving.
Predators of the Raven
Ravens do not have many predators, but they are sometimes eaten by coyotes, hawks, owls, eagles, and martens, as well as other ravens.
Thankfully, ravens are very good at chasing away their predators, and adults will protect their young from all kinds of attackers, even if they’re bigger than ravens.
Natural Enemies of the Hawk
Hawks have many natural enemies, but most of them are prey to the hawk. Very few species are predators of the hawk.
Animals That Hawks Prey Upon
Hawks catch their prey by swooping down at high speeds and surprising their prey. They are much faster than other animals, which gives them a big advantage.
In addition to hunting live prey, hawks will also eat the carcasses of many different kinds of animals.
Multiple kinds of hawks prefer different prey depending on where they live, but the common victims include the following:
- Prairie dogs
Predators of the Hawk
Hawks don’t have many predators, but there are a few. They will attack and kill adult hawks, while raccoons and snakes will eat hawk eggs out of their nests given the opportunity.
Crows and owls will attack hawks, but they don’t eat them as food. Additionally, hawks will fight each other, but they won’t eat other hawks.
Ravens Chasing Hawks in Folklore
There are numerous legends in folklore based on the relationship between hawks and ravens.
Where hawks are known for their fierceness, ravens are seen as more playful, and the two are most often in conflict with each other.
The Apache has a legend that says that ravens and hawks worked together to bring light to the earth. In this legend, the two birds fought until the world turned dark, and then they worked together to bring the light back.
This story symbolizes those at odds working together to bring something great about.
According to Cheyenne legend, hawks are symbols of observation, and following the hawk’s wisdom means paying attention to warnings.
They are associated with protection in battle, so people would sometimes pray to the hawk for protection before a fight.
Many legends associate ravens with sunlight, whether it be in conjunction with hawks or on their own.
They’re thought of as transformers and tricksters and are depicted both stealing light and bringing light to the world.
Ravens chase hawks to keep their nests safe from hawk predation. They use a technique called mobbing to surround a hawk and scare them away.
Mobbing is always done in groups and sometimes in groups of birds of different species. When this happens, a special mobbing call is used to bring the swarming birds together.