It's raining along the Rock River when suddenly I see the distinctive back of a mature Red-tailed Hawk in the dip of an old cornfield, prey in talons, on the ground. Not far from her are three Crows, also on the ground. They are slowly walking towards her, while spreading, curving round her. They look to be attempting to surround her. She waits, watching them, then gives me a look. The Crows continue walking closer, though as they get nearer they become more tentative in their steps. Ready to leap away at the slightest provocation. I look down and I hear the Red-tail take off, the Crows, no longer tentative, scream at her as they fly after her. The Red-tail heads into and perches in a nearby copse of old Pin Oak. The Crows converge, still screaming and diving at her. This continues for a minute and a half, after which time the Red-tail again takes to the air, flies across the Rock River, and through a space in the branches of the trees on the other side. All are lost to visual observation and the screaming recedes into the distance.
It looked to me as if the Crows were after the Red-tail's dinner as opposed to the usual Crow vs Red-tail territorial issues but I wondered if that behavior was in the canon for these two species.
When in doubt, I ask John Blakeman, and here's what he had to say.
The crows were after the hawk's food. They are trying to feed young, or hatch eggs right now, so they have a high demand for protein, so they are trying to get some easy amino acids from the hawk's kill.
(In case you were wondering that if it were a breeding issue promoting the need for extra food, why there were three Crows participating, it is because Crows are communal when it comes to nesting. Not in the way of multiple nests together but rather as a group tending to one nest. A mob of Crows usually consists of an extended family with selected outsiders in which only one pair actually produces eggs, while the entire group cares for that brood.)
(Don't miss Eleanor Tauber's photos of the Frick Ducklings coming in for the night, just below, also posted today.)