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Word of the Week: Mobbing

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Mobbing [MAWB-ing] (verb): An anti-predator adaptation in which individuals of prey species mob a potential predator from a breeding territory, a nest or young, or a non-breeding home range, by cooperatively attacking or harassing it.

Although this form of animal behaviour is known to occur in many animals, like meerkat and some bovines, it is most commonly seen in birds.

In the world of birds, some common mobbers include chickadees, titmice, kingbirds, blackbirds, grackles, jays, and crows. Common targets of mobbing include hawks, crows, ravens, herons, and owls.

This aggressive animal behavour can happen year-round, but it is especially common in the spring since many birds are experiencing surges of hormones, becoming territorial, and beginning to nest.

As the red-winged blackbirds make their way back to High Park this time of year, we can expect to see and even experience some mobbing behaviour.

In the early spring red-winged blackbirds chase not only rival blackbirds, but almost any other bird, big or small, that crosses their territory. Sometimes they won’t just mob other birds but they’ll also mob mammals, including humans! Maybe you’ve already been mobbed by a red-winged blackbird before when passing through their territory? On your next visit to High Park, keep and eye out for mobbing behaviour from red-winged blackbirds and other birds!

To learn more about birds, check out our “Birds of The City” Online Naturalist Course for Adults!