Red-tailed Hawk Attacked by Crows

by Larry Jordan on January 11, 2008

Crow Attacking Red-tailed Hawk

Crow Attacking Red-tailed Hawk photos by Cleve Nash

Back on October 15th this year I wrote a post titled “Why are birds of prey harassed or mobbed”. You can read it here: Birds of Prey Harassed. Well, I recently came upon a photo story of a Red-tailed Hawk being attacked by a crow and I wanted to share these great photos by Cleve Nash.

Red-tailed Hawk on perch

Here is a shot of the hawk just before the crow began its attack. The rest of the photo record follows. The top photo was the next picture in the series following this photo of the hawk by himslf. Then the attack began.

Crow Attacking Red-tailed Hawk

and then another pass

Crow Attacks red-tailed Hawk

the mischievous crows are relentless

Crow Attacks Red-tailed Hawk

According to Cleve this Red Tail perched in that tree for about an hour despite repeated attacks by two crows. They are amazingly resilient aren’t they, the hawks I mean.

Crow Attacking Red-tailed Hawk

Notice the hawk’s nictating membrane covering its eye to protect it as the crow approaches very close (also in the top photo), then in the last photo it is retracted after the crow passes by.

Crow Attacks Red-tailed Hawk

According to Bill Dove one of the members on Raptor Watch, “what effects which birds mob which raptors are the flight skills of the raptor.”

“Buteos are like bombers and therefore don’t have great maneuverability in the sky. Generally falcons also don’t possess great maneuverability in the air except twisting and diving (stoop). Neither genus can go up quickly (except the falcon after a stoop).

The true hawks (accipiters) are the exception. You won’t see passerines or Corvids mobbing them.”

My thanks again to Cleve Nash for this story and his great photos!  You can see more of Cleve’s work at his website: Cleve’s Photography and Videography

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

monica powell November 18, 2009 at 2:21 pm

This is the second time I saw crows attacking our
red-tail hawk-first time 3 or 4 crowds, today 10-20 crows . How do you get rid of crows? The mocking-tail bird is gone. We only have finches, sparrows, hummingbirds left.


Larry November 18, 2009 at 9:49 pm

@Monica this is not unusual behavior. I watched a blackbird attack a Red-shouldered Hawk today. Raptors get harassed or mobbed by other birds all the time because they sometimes prey on smaller birds or their nests.

Crows are one of the most intelligent birds alive and show no mercy when trying to run a raptor out of their territory. Don’t worry about it. The Red-tailed Hawk can take care of itself. You are simply observing nature as it is meant to be. Just enjoy the show!


Bill Hayes May 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm

May 24, 2010
We spotted a red tailed hawk high on a tree across the street from us. The following day I saw a crow attacking a hawk in flight while another hawk sat quietly on the tree. A few days later, no sign of the hawk and a crow is now perched atop the tree where the hawk once sat. Quite a surprise to me.


Piper February 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

I call Ravens “sky thugs” :). I am so very fortunate to live on the 23rd floor of a high-rise that overlooks a ravine. Red-Tail Hawks are an almost daily treat but I have watched gangs of Ravens mercilessly attack these hawks. It is almost like watching a vintage WWII kamakazee attack. They are indeed relentless and the aerial acrobatics demonstrated by all is a sight to behold.


Nikki May 23, 2014 at 2:48 pm

We have been watching this show play out for a week now right outside our patio overlooking an area with tall pine trees in Southern California. Fascinating! The hawk sits 2 or 3 trees over to guard his nest. We can see at least 2 babies poking their heads up at times. A crow speed-dives down at the hawk coming so close to its head — and keeps coming back every 10 minutes to do it all over again. The hawk just sits there without moving. One day we hope to see it just reach out and grab the crow! We are assuming that the hawk guarding the nest is the Dad – and haven’t seen the Mom in few days. Last time we saw her she was flying high above the sky looking for food and about 4 crows chased her away. Hoping we see them both flying around soon — along with their babies too 🙂


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