Songbird Harasses Red-Shouldered Hawk Sitting Too Close To the Nest

Shutterstock / Nick Bossenbroek

Birds of prey are most often seen soaring high above, their majestic wings spread wide as they survey the land (or water) below them in search of prey. But this young red-shouldered hawk appears to be doing no more than chilling on a fence rail and yet, he is being dive-bombed by a tiny bird, who, due to their relative size, looks more gnat than gnatcatcher.

The video was recently captured outside a person’s window, and one cannot help but chuckle over the sight of a tiny little songbird dive-bombing the great big hawk.

Related: Hawk Has Babies Outside Woman's Window and the Internet Is Invested

The hawk, for its part, looks barely inconvenienced by the gnatcatcher’s repeated pecking. It’s less concerned than we might be by the buzzing of a fly. Indeed, it’s only when a nearby dog begins barking that the larger bird decides to find a new spot to perch.


The behavior witnessed here is a type of defensive display that nesting birds engage in in order to harass or distract other animals who get too near their nest. It’s called dive-bombing.

If you get dive-bombed by a bird, it means you have gotten too close to their babies, and they want you out of the way, In most cases, simply moving away from the nest will be enough to get the bird to stop attacking you. Once, while trimming the hedges, we inadvertently knocked down a mockingbird’s nest, and were ruthlessly dive-bombed, until the bird seemed to realize that we were picking up all the hatchlings and putting them back where they belonged.

Then we were BFFs.

If a bird is dive-bombing you, it pays to get out of its way as soon as possible, as this is a highly energetic activity, and birds nurturing hatchlings need all their energy to feed their young.

Red-Shouldered Hawks

Though red-shouldered hawks are more likely to hunt from perches than from a flying position, they are less likely to hunt other birds and raid nests. The hawk in this video does not seem to see the gnatcatcher as possible prey, only as a distraction from whatever it is doing, whether that’s hunting or just hanging out on the fence.

Though color is not a great way to identify birds, as colors of the same species vary from specimen to specimen as well as across regions, it is likely hat this is a juvenile hawk, who is probably just as confused by the songbird’s behavior as the songbird is.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers

The little bird in this video is a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a small species of nesting bird known for its constant motion and fiercely territorial habits. You can see these behaviors on full display int his video, as the angry little bird repeatedly dive-bombs the nearby hawk, trying to get it to move away from its nest.

Despite the names, gnatcatchers do not eat a lot of gnats, though they are insectivorous, and even use stolen spiderwebs to build their nests. Like mockingbirds, they steal snippets of other birds songs, and they will chase intruders into their territories for distances of up to seventy feet from their nests.

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