Sunday, March 10, 2002

Crow Pursuing Kestrel

It is common knowledge among ornithologists that American Crows are frequently harassed by songbirds that may be one-tenth smaller. Among the species that most frequently engage in this behavior in the eastern United States, at least in my experience, are the Eastern Kingbird and the Red-winged Blackbird. Both of these species are extremely aggressive and territorial, not only toward other individuals of their own kind, but to individuals of other species as well. Crows are opportunistic predators on the eggs and young of songbirds, so the impetus for this David versus Goliath-type behavior is strong.

Thursday morning, while driving down a back-country road in Jefferson County, West Virginia, I was surprised to see an American Crow in hot pursuit of an American Kestrel. The kestrel is a small raptor in the falcon family. The crow is about four times heavier than a kestrel. My hypothesis is that the kestrel had just captured a small prey item of some type and that the crow was trying to steal it, but I couldn’t verify that the kestrel was actually carrying prey. Nor was I able to determine if the crow was successful in getting the kestrel to let loose of the prey, if, in fact, that was the goal of the chase. The crow is an intelligent and adaptable predator, so this type of pursuit behavior is not really unexpected.

(Note: A modified version of this was posted to the WV-Bird listserv on 03/14/2002.)

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