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Bullies in the Trees

Have you noticed a lot of racket in the trees lately? The crows are restless. That familiar "CAW! CAW! CAW!" above our head reminds us that there's another world going on outside of our daily milieu.


Yesterday, I noticed what I *believe* were a pair of Red-shouldered adult hawks on a bare branch in the Klingle Valley. They were facing in different directions, likely hunting, or enjoying the sun on a brisk afternoon. They were perched not far from last year's nest and I thought, "Could these be our old friends, Walt and Libby?"

After a few minutes, the hawk facing me left its companion and flew toward a grove of trees on the west side of the Connecticut Avenue bridge. Soaring into the wind it glided effortlessly in the blue sky.

Then from out of nowhere, a mob of American crows appeared and began chasing the raptor! Swooping close, the crows sounded their war cry as the hawk stretched its wings for maximum speed.

I briefly looked around at ground level. No one seemed to notice the peril above. The hawk, realizing it was outnumbered and unwelcome, fled the valley and made its escape over the trees and rooftops of Devonshire Place.

Crows have a reputation, among the winged-culture anyway, as bullies. More often than not, you will hear them first, then witness some poor bird or raptor fleeing a swarm, or murder of crows.


Why can't we all get along, you ask?


Wildlife is territorial. Everything is about competing for food and protecting their young. It is survival. While the Red-shouldered hawk was just minding its own business, the crows are sending a loud message: This is a no hawk zone and don't even think of taking our food or threatening our nests in the spring (FYI: raptors DO steal from nests of various bird species, but interestingly enough, crows are guilty of this, too!). Crows can maneuver a little faster in flight than hawks, often making contact in the the air with their foe. Other creatures hear this commotion, too, and take heed.


It all reminds me of my youth as the new kid after moving to a rural community in 7th grade. It was a culture shock that I was not prepared for. Eager to make friends, I attempted to warm up to other girls, but they couldn't see past the fact that I was from somewhere else. It also didn't help that we had little in common. I was raised by much older parents that my peers assumed were my grandparents, and as an only child, I had the challenge of fitting into groups which had been well established for years (it was K-12 in one building!). As a result, I was an easy target for bullying: the name-calling, chair-pulled-out-from-under-you, and of course, the last pick in gym. And while I wish it hadn't happened, the experience in my youth made me more empathetic toward anyone different from me. So when I see a raptor fleeing a murder of crows, I can't help but root for the underdog.


"CAW!"


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