Why Do Little Birds Follow Hawks?

Have you ever seen little birds following a hawk?

It makes you think right?

Why would little birds follow such a bird that can potentially eat them!

So if you are wondering – Why do little birds follow hawks?

The answer to this in short is..

Normally, a small bird at the back of a hawk is trying to drive the raptor out of its territory. This is common among nesting birds, striving to protect their hatchling. However, birds seeking dominance over food resources also chase out other birds.

In this article you’re going to discover the following

  • Why do birds follow hawks?
  • Why do small birds attack hawks?
  • Do hawks eat small birds?
  • Do hawks attack small birds?
  • Why do hawks allow crows to pester them?
  • When does mobbing a hawk become ineffective?

If you basically want to learn everything there is about birds following hawks in depth detail – you’re going to love this article

You’ll be surprised and will surely learn a thing or two

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Why Do Birds Follow a Hawk?

Because they want the hawk out of their territory.

For a wild bird, survival and producing off-springs are the two most important things.

However, a raptor lurking around a nest is like “death on a hunting spree”.

And so, to survive, a nesting bird may have to sacrifice its fledglings.


Instead of fleeing, the little birds often make seemingly irrational decisions and may start to follow the hawk.

While chasing the raptor, they produce high-pitched warning signals.

These calls alert all the birds in the vicinity about the presence of the hawk.

Rather than hiding, these other birds join the small bird, making even louder noises.


Well, these warning calls are sort of social helplines and are not specific to a singular species.

Therefore, all the surrounding birds will join in and chase the hawk out of their territory.

This phenomenon is known as “Mobbing”.

However, mobbing is not a rare event.

And so, a hawk being chased out by a mob of crows, magpies, chickadees, and blue jays, is quite a usual sight.

Besides, birders have been regularly gathering their birds by imitating mobbing-calls, a technique called “Pishing”. 

During mobbing, small birds take turns to dive bomb the target predator.

This may seem like a small bird attacking its predator.  

I know what you’re thinking.. 

Why Do Small Birds Attack Hawks?

Technically, they don’t attack at all.

You see, mobbing is more like bullying rather than aggressive assault.

And so, a hawk rarely gets hurt by small birds chasing him out. 

However, the raptor does not simply leave the town. 

So, a mobbing looks more like a hawk looping in wild circles with “tiny and cute” birds following him, almost religiously.

Though fascinating, a mobbing is still a prey running after its predator.

Or more like, 

“Dinner” chasing its “Consumer”. 

And yet, small birds like blackbirds and kingbirds not only regularly dive bomb a hawk but may occasionally ride one.

Perhaps, a more appropriate would be:

What Causes a Small Bird to Become So Brave As To Chase Its Predator?

The answer comes down to a surge in territorial behavior, owing to:

1. Hormonal Changes

Courting among birds involves a demonstration of dominance through territorial behavior.

Consequently, male birds become exceptionally territorial during the breeding season

Since a fit male will claim a high-quality terrain, therefore, it will find a better mate. 

This has been observed in red-winged blackbirds that don’t let rivals or any other bird pass through their land.

2. Protection

A bird with a nest full of hatchling, will not let any animal approach their nest. 

Such birds will not only force out predators but also nest raiders e.g. blue jays.

3. Food Resources

Birds with a food reserve are more likely to drive out a hawk.

For instance, a mockingbird becomes aggressively territorial of a single berry shrub with the onset of fall.

Some birds may chase a predator to rob it of its hunt.

So perhaps, those ravens started a mob on that hawk only to eat its freshly hunted gopher.

4. Peace

Birds try to avoid all hostile encounters.

Since owls prey during the night.

Therefore, birds go on pre-emptive strikes to avoid disturbing their peaceful nights. 

This is also why blue jays team up with crows to chase away hawks.

Even though crows are more threatening than hawks.

5. Bitterness

Some birds like crows start a mob against hawks, only because they can.

It’s like they just want to mock their predators. 

But people observing mobbing tend to wonder why a hawk is simply taking that bullying.

I mean, they could just kill a small bird

Question is – Do hawks eat small birds?

Let’s find out..

Do Hawks Eat Small Birds?

Perhaps the small birds are their favorite treats. 

And so, a hawk will hardly ever miss an opportunity to devour small birds including jays, doves, quails, juncos, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, and even nuthatches. 

Since they can eat all kinds of songbirds, hawks feel less pressure to migrate. 

Typically, a hawk captures a bird in its sharp talons and squeezes it to suffocation.

Otherwise, hawks tend to sit and pluck away feathers.

Thereby pressurizing the prey into submitting to its death.

With that being said, 

Capturing a small bird is quite a challenging task. 

Small birds are not only swift and alert, but can also escape three ways:




But a small bird chasing its predator seems like an easy hunt.

Do Hawks Attack Small Birds?

They most certainly do.

However, hawks target unaware birds feeding on the ground.

But an airborne alert bird is a completely different matter.

Of course, for a hawk to swallow bullying calmly, seems out of its character.


Why Does a Hawk Not React Aggressively Towards Mobbing?

You must understand that a hawk is an intelligent bird.

He would not pick a fight he can potentially lose, and he is being calm because of the following factors:

1. Lack of Surprise

Being a sly predator, a hawk prefers to hunt its prey oblivious.

However, with a hundred birds making a racket out of his presence, the biggest advantage is already lost.

2. Attacking Position

Mobbers tend to fly above the hawk.

This stops a hawk from performing their signature dive move!

3. Agility

Having thicker and bigger feathers, allow a hawk to soar.

Compared to this, a small bird has feathers designed for agility.

And so, small birds easily maneuver through the air.


A small alert bird will likely outrun a hawk.

Even if a hawk is experienced enough to capture birds mid-air, it will probably drain most of its energy in the chase.

4. Weak Targets

Small birds tend to chase away larger and less motile birds.

They will likely avoid pursuing a young, experienced male hawk. 

5. Mob Mentality

If a hawk does capture a mobbing small bird, then other birds will not take this moment lightly.

The hawk grabbing a mobber represents an existential crisis.

All the mobbers will go berserk and will try and peck or hit the raptor.

This has been observed with blue jays and red-winged blackbirds working together to poke away a hawk.

All this explains why a hawk will not grab a small bird. 

But hawks also don’t chase away medium-sized slow birds like Corvids including crows, jackdaws, ravens, and rooks. 

Why Do Hawks Allow Crows to Pester them?

Surely, if a hawk ever captures a crow, it’s dead meat.

But a murder of crows is everything a bird should avoid.

Because crows possess the following unusual traits:

  1. Remarkable intelligence and aggression.
  2. Coordinated flocks. 
  3. Piercing beaks. 
  4. Noteworthy social behaviors like,
    1. Bullying
    2. Funeral for a dead crow
    3. Hunting as a flock
    4. Compassion e.g. previous broods assisting their parents in building a nest.

So, fighting a single crow usually means battling the whole flock

Therefore, hawks avoid crows and don’t react to their bullying.

Do you see how clever hawks are? Amazing right!

When Does Mobbing a Hawk Become Ineffective?

Small birds may find it hard to mob out a hawk if the hawk:

  1. Is experienced enough.
  2. Is used to such harassing behavior.
  3. Has a mate nearby, that may hunt alongside.
  4. Has a nest with baby hawks. In this case, he may attack any animal approaching his nest.

Wrapping Up 

Small birds follow large raptors like hawks to drive them out of their territory.

This phenomenon of birds ganging up on a larger bird is called mobbing and it may be done by members of several species. T

he mobbers don’t hurt their target, rather aggressively warn the predator to go away.

Nevertheless, a hawk is still a predator and may leave no opportunity to eat a small bird.

Related articles about Hawks which you may be interested in

Why do hawks circle? 

Do hawks eat rabbits? 

Do hawks eat rattlesnakes?

Hawk vs Vulture

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