Sunday, November 15, 2015


Have you ever come across a frenzy of bird activity like multiple species of small birds flitting and diving around a bush or small tree? Chances are, there is a feathered (or scaled or furred) predator in there-go take a peek! This activity is called mobbing and it is used to distract, harass, annoy enough to get predator out of the area. And if you are a bird, it's important to call in your friends as there is safety in numbers.
Looking for an owl, we found one roosting in the coffeeberry shrub!
During a Christmas Bird Count at the Butte Creek Ecological Reserve I heard lots of angry contact calls and there, diving in and out of a mazanita shrub were Anna's hummingbird, hermit thrush, spotted towhee, oregon junco, oak titmouse, golden and ruby-crowned kinglets and yellow-rumped warblers.  I knew there was something unwanted in that shrub, walked over and gently pulled back a branch. There, sitting on a mouse, was a tiny saw-whet, trying to avoid the mobbing crowd.
Here is one of our past radio-telemetered owls, roosting in the dense
branches of a toyon shrub at the BCCER. Photo by Julie Shaw
Another petite hunter, the Northern Pygmy Owl is renowned for being mobbed. Active during the day and seeking out songbirds, this tiny predator has eyespots in the back of its head, which is meant to dissuade mobbers from mobbing. This great video shows the pygmy and eyespots perfectly.

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