Bird Behaviour Question

Apparently we have a new lodger. He’s been here daily for about three weeks, so I decided if he’s going to live here, he better have a name.

Meet Buster.

Buster is a great-horned owl with a unique plumage, so I always know its him. (assuming male because he’s not very big). That white blaze runs all the way down his front, so he’s hard to mistake, even when you can’t see the whole owl.

Having a great-horned visit the yard is not that unusual, but the behaviour of the resident corvids has me baffled.

Before I realized we had a lodger, I was sitting at the kitchen table one day and noticed something fly by out of the corner of my eye. Walking to the window, I noticed four large ravens doing a low level flight over the yard. As I stood there watching them, they eventually landed on one of my spruce trees.

Soon they were joined by three black-billed magpies and I thought, aha – owl. I grabbed the bins and sure enough, there was Buster.

Then I realized the corvids were quiet. They sat near the owl for about five minutes, then they all flew away. No mobbing.

Since Buster has been here, the corvids often pay him a visit but their behaviour is the same. A quick, quiet visit, no mobbing, and they fly away.

Anyone care to tell me why they’re doing that? Do they have to be in the right mood to mob an owl? Is it because it’s winter and they have no chicks in nests somewhere?

Any birder knows the best way to spot an owl is to listen for the racket corvids and other birds make when they’re nearby. I also have house finches, chickadees, house sparrows, woodpeckers  and both nuthatches in my yard, and they don’t bother the owl either.

The squirrels are running up and down all the spruce trees, including the one Buster is in, and jumping from branch to branch without a care. And yes the owl is alive – he chooses different branches, and leaves the yard about 5:30 pm each day.

He may be smaller than other great-horned owls, but why do none of my other birds care that he’s there? The squirrels probably haven’t even noticed him – it’s their breeding season again.

Now I’m just waiting for the day it’s warm enough, and Buster is taking a break, to go out and hunt for owl pellets under the tree. Here’s hoping!

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4 Responses to Bird Behaviour Question

  1. DW Maiden says:

    After doing a little research, and I mean a little, could it be that since the Owl was perched the crows aren’t as inclined to mob? The few sites I’ve seen say they are more apt to mob while in flight where they have the advantage. Don’t know, but maybe they are just enjoying the beauty of Buster…. just like us!

  2. Kerri says:

    Buster is a Beauty!
    PS – no idea about the answer but I hope you get one. It would be intereesting to find out :)

  3. Wonderful post, and a good question to which I have no answer. I have often been puzzled by the behavior of squirrels that run up & down the branch where a red-tailed hawk is perched. Hope you get some good answers.

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