One of the undoubted benefits of the additional time we’ve all been spending in the garden or on rural walks is that we’ve had a great opportunity to get acquainted, as never before, with nature as spring transitions to early summer.
Witnessing the season’s changing colours up close has been a real treat but twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve observed something quite extraordinary and initially rather puzzling. On both occasions I was alerted by the sound of an irate or distressed bird which had me gazing skywards. And what I saw was a sodding great buzzard – a relatively common bird of prey in this area these days – having a duel (sort of Spitfire v Messerschmitt Bf 109 style) with a crow. What I couldn’t work out at first was which was kicking-off and which was having it on its toes / talons. I initially assumed the crow was a juvenile being pursued and facing the prospect of becoming the buzzard’s in-flight meal. But no, as I continued to watch it became clear that the crow – by far the smaller of the two birds – was actually harassing the larger and formidably equipped predator.
I had to learn more about this. Was this usual behaviour or had I observed evidence of the madness of our world spreading to bird world? A quick bit of online research informed me that crows frequently resort to what’s known as mobbing; a defence response to a perceived threat from a predatory bird. Crows are naturally aggressive and are fiercely territorial especially during nesting season. The encounters rarely escalate into full-on combat and typically stop at posturing and a bit of ‘come on over here if you think you’re hard enough’. Despite the buzzard’s advantage in terms of weaponry and agility, they are delicate creatures (yeah, a bit of tart) and shy from conflict.
This has all prompted me to re-evaluate my opinions and how I characterize these two members of the local avian population:
Buzzard – I reckon we’ve all encountered people like this at work. High opinion of themselves, image conscious, natural bullies who conceal an underlying insecurity.
Crow – I reckon we’ve all seen characters like him in the pub. Never ever knock his pint over or challenge his opinions. Possibly the best pound for pound fighter of the avian world his scientific name Corvus corone evokes an Italian-American middleweight.
Finally, the other spooky fact is that the family name of the crows (and their cousins the rooks, jackdaws, jays, ravens, magpies etc.) is Corvid.