Why Do Crows Chase Hawks and Owls?

Updated: Jun. 29, 2023

If you've ever seen a group of crows swooping after a hawk, you might wonder — why do crows chase hawks? The answer might surprise you.

Crows vs red shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)mirceax/Getty Images
Crows chase a red shouldered hawk

It’s no secret that backyard birders dislike finding hawks near their feeders. After all, it’s not like the hawks are there for the seed! Crows aren’t regularly winning backyard birder popularity contests either, but after reading this, some might want to re-think their stance on the all-black, highly intelligent birds. Our experts answered the question: Why do crows chase hawks, and is that behavior typical?

Learn all about American crows and fish crows.

Here’s Why Crows Chase Hawks

American Crow callingStan Tekiela Author / Naturalist / Wildlife Photographer/Getty Images
American crows will take on a hawk

Birds & Blooms reader Jan Haddrill asks, “Two crows chased a small red-shouldered hawk through my backyard. Is this common?”

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman: We might expect hawks to be the kings of the air, but other birds regularly harass them. This behavior is called mobbing. Various birds often approach hawks, making alarm calls and even daring to peck at them. No one has come up with a complete explanation for why they do this. It may serve to draw attention to these predators so they can’t take smaller birds by surprise. In the case of crows, which are intelligent and curious birds, it may be partly a tough-guy way of having fun!

Psst—it’s tricky to identify crows vs ravens, but these key details ensure you’ll never get them mixed up again.

crows, smartest birdJohn C Magee/Getty Images
A murder of three crows perched on a tree limb

During the breeding season, songbirds such as eastern kingbirds and red-winged blackbirds will flutter up to confront hawks that fly too close to their nests. The hawks mostly ignore the efforts of such small birds. Crows, on the other hand, are big enough that they can actually gang up on hawks and chase them away.

“Mobbing” behaviors might run in the brainy corvid family — Steller’s jays and blue jays do it, too.

Why Do Crows Chase Owls?

“Why would crows chase an owl? I have seen four or five crows flying after and around a barred owl, cawing and squawking, on several occasions,”
asks Mary Leffler of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

Kenn and Kimberly: Many kinds of birds will harass owls that they discover in the daytime, in a behavior called “mobbing.” Even chickadees will mob little screech-owls. Crows focus on bigger targets like barred owls or great horned owls, and they will also chase hawks and eagles.

If you’ve started to change your mind about crows, check out these pictures that will make you appreciate black birds.