I’m not a big fan of black flies or mosquitoes, but deer flies drive me crazy with their endless buzzing flights around my head. They used to drive me inside and although I can tolerate them (slightly) better now, I still often hurry to a shady patch of path and hope they will give up. So I had a lot of sympathy for the local Red-tailed Hawks this week as they tried to cope with the annoying pests buzzing around their heads.
Blue Jays Gang Up on the Raptors
I might not even have noticed this pair of Red-tailed Hawks taking a breather at the top of a mature spruce tree if it hadn’t been for a group of six or seven Blue Jays. The Jays had made it their personal mission to ensure neither raptor had a moment’s rest or peace. Looking up at the source of all the racket, I saw a Blue Jay actually strike the Red Tailed and pull some feathers loose.
Not surprisingly, in another second, the first Red Tailed lifted off and sailed away down the valley. In another minute, the second also gave up and flew.
What’s That Flash of Crimson Red Near This Red Tailed Hawk’s Head?
While I was trying to get a non-fuzzy photo of the resident Mourning Warbler male at Riverwood, I heard more screaming jays and several shadows fell across my path. Looking up through my lens, I took some quick photos of the Red Tailed Hawk once more under attack. It tried to land in a tangle of branches to possibly deter the Jays from getting too close but soon gave up that strategy and flew in a few circles, mewing plaintively.
When I was flipping through the photos at the end of the day, I was surprised to notice a red spot near the Red Tailed’s head. At first I thought it was light reflecting from an eye, but then I saw it was on top of the “blue jays” head.
That’s when I looked closer at the birds mobbing the raptor. The two in these photos were not jays. They had a white band across the end of their tail feathers, and grey backs with a darker cap: They were Eastern Kingbirds. The red patch at the top of their heads is usually hidden but at times like this, they raise the feathers in an aggressive display.
I enjoyed watching the aerial display but I did feel a bit sorry for the hawk. I know how tired I get of pesky things flying at me when all I want to do is relax. I hope it found a quiet perch eventually.
- A Red-tailed Hawk Under Attack from…a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher?
- What Bird Has a White Line at the End of Its Tail?
Have you seen an Eastern Kingbird flash its hidden red patch at an intruder? Please share your sighting with a comment.