Crows on Patrol

By Jean Silva

“CAW, CAW, CAW” screamed the crow as he dove straight toward the top of the pine tree.

I looked up and into the hard shiny eyes of a hawk just seconds before he took flight, the crow in pursuit. As they flew I watched the crow dive the hawk again and again until they were out of sight. One brave crow chasing a larger predator.

We live in the mountains. Our nine foot high fences and neighborhood activities keep wildlife at bay during the day. And, during the day our rabbits play in the yard. But we are always alert for predators.

Last year a pair of hawks nested in our neighborhood. I heard their high pitched sharp screams without realizing or even thinking about them. One day I looked up at the pine in our yard and found myself staring into the eyes of a hawk. After that, if I didn’t see the hawks, I would hear them. Our rabbits are large and our yard full of trees, bushes and hide boxes, but still: HAWKS!

I wasn’t the only one watching the hawks. A mob of neighborhood crows chased the hawks whenever they flew close to a crow nest. When a hawk approached nearby crows would give a mobbing call as they flew to intercept the hawk. From all directions, other crows flew in to chase the hawks away.

Crows are extremely smart. They recognized people’s faces and teach their babies who can be trusted. They use tools to pry food out of tight spots. They solve food puzzles that are challenging for dogs. I wondered if these smart birds would help with my hawk problem.

I put a platter of peanuts and a bowl of water on the picnic table in the yard every morning. Every morning the crows (and blue jays) would come to eat the peanuts. The crows began to rest in our pine trees. Over the last year I watched with satisfaction as they chased the hawks away from our yard, their new feeding ground.

Indoors or outdoors, no place is absolutely safe. But we can take steps to make our bunnies as safe as we possible. Our outdoor spaces were protected from land based predators. Now, thanks to the crow patrol, I feel a little better about areal attacks.