This video of an owl blatantly not caring as it gets mobbed by a squadron of excited smaller birds has been doing the rounds since it was posted to YouTube by AFV Animals late last week. But is this really a case of an owl not giving a hoot as it takes a beating? Or is something else going on here?

After doing a bit of digging, we're almost certain the that injured party is a barred owl, one of the most common owl species in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. While the behaviour of the smaller birds is pretty simple to explain ("mobbing" is designed to drive away the potentially deadly predator), the owl's passive response is a little more confusing. 

One likely explanation is that nocturnal species like the barred owl are just not up retaliation during daylight hours, when they're conserving energy and getting some sleep (and that makes mobbing nocturnal predators a lot less risky for smaller birds). Flying away from its attackers would also mean relinquishing its preferred perch in the tree, and perhaps a good hunting spot. 

Though they're usually night-time hunters, barred owls will occasionally dine during the day, swooping in on prey from their perch in the branches – which helps to explain why the smaller birds are determined to ward off the threat. 

Top header image: Claudine Lamothe, Flickr