Bullying: Big isn't always the bully

By Dave Hanks

We sat by a tree that had a hawk resting in it. However, it wasn’t getting much rest. There was a Western Kingbird (which is, perhaps, 5% of the hawk’s size) that was bullying the bigger bird. Imagine how it would be to be a hawk, and to always have a tiny little bird pecking at you. The kingbird didn’t want that hawk in that tree. But it didn’t end there. When the hawk flew, the small bird wasn’t satisfied. It couldn’t leave well enough alone, but stayed right on the hawk’s tail without let-up. I have also seen other smaller birds, like Red-Winged Blackbirds, exhibit the same behavior. It doesn’t matter whether they mob the big bird as a group, or go after it singly.

It reminded me of my high school days. Being of large frame, I seemed an irresistible target for two classmates to torment. Was the fact that I was big, and they were small the stimulus? I don’t know. I could have easily turned and wrecked havoc on them. But foreseeing the possible complications, it was not worth the trouble. Perhaps that hawk felt the same way – who knows?

Pictured is a Ferruginous Hawk. It is the largest American Hawk. It is one of two hawks that have feathers that go down its legs to its feet. The other is the Rough-Legged Hawk. Its dorsal and leg feathers are reddish, but we recognize it by the great amount of white on its ventral surfaces. It is a species of the open country of our west, and its winter habitat is similar to its summer haunts. Standing stubble is habitat for rodents that make up a large part of the hawk’s diet and is favored. This raptor will also take birds, reptiles, and some insects; but mammals comprise 80 to 90 percent of the menu.

Ferruginous Hawks have been used as a falconry bird. Its flight is active with slow wing beats much like an eagle. It soars with wings held in a dihedral plane. Hovering or low crusing over the ground are also used as hunting techniques.

(At rest on a fence post)