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Sparrowhawk tactics

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Old Friday 10th April 2009, 15:27   #51
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BTW, who's Ken.
oops

Sorry Chris
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Old Friday 10th April 2009, 15:29   #52
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Old Friday 10th April 2009, 15:40   #53
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[[u]QUOTE=ChrisKten;1452419]I thought I'd post an update on what's been happening with the Sparrowhawks, nothing, nothing has been happening.

I've seen no sign of Sparrowhawks since I last posted in this thread (about 3 weeks).
[/quote]

Possibly they've moved to a breeding site for a while, busy nest building, displaying etc.??
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Old Friday 10th April 2009, 15:48   #54
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Possibly they've moved to a breeding site for a while, busy nest building, displaying etc.??
Yes, could be that too. I'm pretty sure they will return as nothing has changed about my garden, same amount of prey and cover.

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Old Saturday 11th April 2009, 08:42   #55
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I mentioned a few posts back that I wasn't sure how resistant Sparrowhawks are to PMV. As I said, I've noticed a few Pigeons in the street (not in my garden, yet) that are displaying typical PMV symptoms.

I've looked around on line and can't really find any reference to PMV and Raptors. I would imagine they would have some resistance to disease as eating sick birds is pretty common.

So is anyone aware whether a Sparrowhawk eating a PMV infected Pigeon would be at risk of the disease?
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Old Saturday 11th April 2009, 09:38   #56
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Hi ChrisKten, I think you will find your sprawks are on the nest. Just wait till the start of may and they will be back more than ever, hopefully feeding a few chicks.
I only have males calling in at the moment, the females stopped showing 2 weeks ago.

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Old Saturday 11th April 2009, 09:50   #57
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Hi ChrisKten, I think you will find your sprawks are on the nest. Just wait till the start of may and they will be back more than ever, hopefully feeding a few chicks.
I only have males calling in at the moment, the females stopped showing 2 weeks ago.

Clive
Hi Clive, yeah from what I'm hearing, I'm hopeful they'll be back.

It's odd that I don't seem to have noticed this quiet period in previous years though. I guess it's possible other things were happening at the same time, so I somehow didn't realise.
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Old Tuesday 14th April 2009, 12:31   #58
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I see a male quite regualrly in my garden.

It will usually fly into the thick bush right in the garden and stake out the birds. After a while the birds relax, pop out into the open and wham! His success rate seems very high.
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Old Tuesday 14th April 2009, 12:59   #59
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I see a male quite regualrly in my garden.

It will usually fly into the thick bush right in the garden and stake out the birds. After a while the birds relax, pop out into the open and wham! His success rate seems very high.
That's interesting, as it's similar behaviour to the female in my garden, but different to the male.

Have you noticed what he's taking? Sparrows, Starlings, Tits?
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Old Tuesday 14th April 2009, 23:21   #60
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starling last time I saw. I know what you're thinking, but it's definately a male!

I consistenly have a pair of collared doves in there too, if there was a female about that might change.
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2009, 08:15   #61
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starling last time I saw. I know what you're thinking, but it's definately a male! [...]
I'd better make a Tinfoil Hat.

Actually I wasn't doubting your ID of the male. I was thinking that gender wasn't dictating tactics, rather prey choice and available cover.

I would think that, if it worked, the female in my garden would behave like the male, in fact she may have done so already and I've just missed it.

The more people that post their experiences, the more we can build a picture of Sparrowhawk behaviour. I think this is the best way to learn about Birds, from our observations, rather than from books.
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2009, 18:46   #62
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I agree, the sparrowhawk is special too because you can't really keep in captive so it will always be harder to study.

Very rarely do the actions of the birds I see match up exactly with what the book has told me it should do.
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Old Tuesday 5th May 2009, 14:49   #63
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Sorry to bump an old thread, but I just had a thought (I know, it doesn't happen often ).

I've only just noticed that you can upload video to the forums, the Birdforum TV section. Assuming that I can upload to there, would there be any point in me converting some of the Sparrowhawk videos I've recorded?

I've already posted captures from the videos, in this thread and elsewhere; but not uploaded the actual videos.

So would anyone be interested, or is there plenty of such footage available already?
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Old Friday 15th May 2009, 14:36   #64
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I thought I'd post an update on what's been happening with the Sparrowhawks, nothing, nothing has been happening.

I've seen no sign of Sparrowhawks since I last posted in this thread (about 3 weeks). There's been no piles of feathers, no Starlings flying off screaming, no Sparrows' alarm calls (their alarm is quite distinctive when a Hawk has attacked), nothing. When the birds have been spooked they've returned almost instantly, which they don't do if a Hawk is about.

I know it sounds odd to most, but this is the longest period I've had over the last few years without evidence of Sparrowhawks.

I hope they are OK.
Well, they are back. Actually that may not be quite true. A female Sparrowhawk (or a large male) showed up 30 minutes ago. The attack was totally different to what I've seen so far, so it could be a different bird.

It all happened quite quickly, but it appears to have been hiding to the right of the kitchen window, close to the house. All the birds had just been spooked by a Magpie swooping into the tree, so the garden was quiet. All of a sudden 2 House Sparrows flew from the right of the garden (near the house) pursued by a Sparrowhawk. I think it caught one as the Sparrows flew into the tree. I managed to get the attached out of focus picture through the window before it flew off.

I've never seen a Sparrowhawk chasing prey in flight, I just wish I had time to video it.

Something interesting, yesterday evening I posted that I saw the first Sparrow fledgling of the year.
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Old Monday 18th May 2009, 17:19   #65
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would love to see some vids, whack em up!
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Old Monday 18th May 2009, 18:02   #66
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would love to see some vids, whack em up!
OK, I'll try and sort it out by the weekend.

I need to edit out the parts where I moved the camera too much. I also need to convert to an acceptable format. I saved some direct to uncompressed .avi to maintain quality, that means some are over a Gigabyte.
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Old Wednesday 20th May 2009, 11:27   #67
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I've uploaded the first 2 videos, I'll sort out a few more when I get time.

The one with the Collard Dove isn't for the squeamish as it appears to still be alive. The second is showing an interaction between a feeding Sparrowhawk and an inquisitive Squirrel.

They are both short clips and both have terrible camera work (I edited out the worst of it). I was leaning awkwardly and I didn't want to switch position in case I disturbed the Sparrowhawks. Hopefully the content is still enough to be of interest.
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Old Thursday 20th August 2009, 19:38   #68
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I know reviving an old thread is usually frowned upon (it's called Necromancing), but there's been quite a change in tactics in my garden.

A bit of background information might help:

Over the last few months I've only seen a Sparrowhawk a few times, and only seen one kill (a juvenile Starling, picture posted in my gallery). However, I have heard the aftermath of an attack many times during the same period, and I've heard the unmistakeable screech of a Starling being attacked a few times as well. In fact I've had about the same amount of birds panicking and flying into windows, birds' frantic alarm calls, and screeching Starlings, as I'm used to over the last couple of years. The puzzling thing was, I've hardly seen any Sparrowhawks. This confused me more because there were, and still are, over 30 juvenile Sparrows, and well over 30 juvenile Starlings. Add to this the other birds (40+ Pigeons, between 8 and 16 Collard Doves, adult Starlings, Adult Sparrows) in my garden and you get a great deal of potential prey in a small area (roughly 20 feet square).

Well, about half an hour ago I was cleaning up the garden, as I do every night. This is a bit of a ritual, as I feed the Pigeons by hand while cleaning up (they started it, not me). So while I'm cleaning up, the garden is full of birds and the trees are full of Sparrows, Starlings, and a few Collard Doves. All of the birds are used to this ritual, and have no fear of me. Suddenly, above the noise of the Starlings, I heard a noise like a gust of wind, and all of the birds panicked and flew off. The Sparrows' alarms were almost deafening, but I could see nothing. As I was under the trees at the time, I looked up, and high up in the tree was a Sparrowhawk. So I've been thinking about it, and I think I've worked out what's happening, and why.

Two things are different in my garden this year: there are more juveniles, and my trees have grown outwards.

My garden almost has a roof of tree branches, there's only a few feet clear near the fence. The Sparrowhawks have lost their usual attack route as the branches get in the way. It would mean avoiding the neighbours washing lines, flying down sharply, then under the branches to get to the birds; so the birds get more chance to escape from the trees. If birds are on the ground they are almost completely protected by branches that weren't there over the last few years.

Also, because there are so many juveniles they can't all get to the feeders at the same time. When there were less birds they would wait near the feeders while others fought it out. But there's no room now, so many birds wait higher up in the trees and drop down as others move to the apples on the floor or to the bird baths.

This has meant that the only reasonable approach for the Sparrowhawk is to take the birds that are higher up in the trees. That way, there is a direct route from where it's hiding to the many birds high up in the trees. And that's what I think has been happening for the last few months. The reason the Sparrowhawks aren't eating their kill in my garden is too many overhanging branches; they like cover, but they also like a clear view of at least a couple of angles.

So, if I'm right, the balance has shifted in favour of the prey. Now that's good for the prey (unless they starve to death) but bad for the Sparrowhawks.

So what do I do? If I cut back the branches I'd be interfering with Nature, but if I do nothing there could be both starving prey and starving predators. I'm hoping the Sparrowhawks will work it out; I'm sure the situation isn't totally unique.

For now I'm just going to watch and try to confirm what is happening.
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Old Thursday 10th September 2009, 23:27   #69
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It seems there may be some variation based upon the habitat locally. I have seen most of the attacks near me take place after the hawk had spiralled up to great height on thermals. The local martins spiralling frantically around it, calling, (although not causing the hawk any worry at all) then simply plummetting, most prergrine like, at great speed striking an unwitting bird who possibly was too far away to hear or see the alarm calls from the mobbing flocks spiralling up with it.

This is by far ans away th emost common form of attack round here, it is a rare sight indeed to see one darting through gardens to attack, it is not that i dont witness them as the alarm callsd alerting you to an attack in progress always tell you when its happening. Never seen a kill on a hedge hop either, whereas the stoop almost always leads to a success.
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Old Friday 11th September 2009, 07:37   #70
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It seems there may be some variation based upon the habitat locally. I have seen most of the attacks near me take place after the hawk had spiralled up to great height on thermals. The local martins spiralling frantically around it, calling, (although not causing the hawk any worry at all) then simply plummetting, most prergrine like, at great speed striking an unwitting bird who possibly was too far away to hear or see the alarm calls from the mobbing flocks spiralling up with it.

This is by far ans away th emost common form of attack round here, it is a rare sight indeed to see one darting through gardens to attack, it is not that i dont witness them as the alarm callsd alerting you to an attack in progress always tell you when its happening. Never seen a kill on a hedge hop either, whereas the stoop almost always leads to a success.
As you've read, it's completely the opposite in my garden. Sparrowhawks will obviously develop tactics that gives them the highest success rate.

My garden is full of birds, and incredibly noisy most of the time, so any Sparrowhawks can't fail to notice such a large amount of potential prey. A stoop-like attack would only work for birds in the treetops. The overhanging branches, wire fence at the back intertwined with Blackberry bushes, plus over 100 birds looking skyward for danger, means the chances of success from above are small. However, hiding in a tree and flying along the top of the gardens gives a much higher success rate.

Raptors are highly intelligent predators that either learn tactics that work or die. It would seem that there is no "text book" attack, tactics are developed by individual birds according to the habitat they are hunting in. Judging by the amount of unsuccessful attacks, I would guess that much of it is simply "trial and error"; if it works: do it again. if it fails: try something else.
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Old Sunday 13th September 2009, 16:51   #71
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On the subject of s/hawks and gardens, last week I was inside the house looking through an open window, when suddenly an exocet missile (or should that be the AIM 26 Falcon missile!) flew past the window with a 'whoosh' with what seemed like inches to spare between the missile and the open window.

At the time there were around 30 birds at or near the feeders, most of them recently fledged goldfinches and greenfinches. The exocet missile (i.e. the male sparrowhawk), performed what looked like a 180 turnaround in mid flight to persue the bird(s) that had scattered into the trees behind him on his approach.

A truly fantastic sight to witness and listen to - the alarm calls, then the deadly silence that follows. After a while, all returns to 'normality' with the s/hawk long gone - more often than not without a catch.

Unfortunatley, the only down side, is that being in an area where red kites are a common sight, I receive a lot of reports of red kites 'attacking my *insert fluffy bird name here* in the bushes. Kites, it seems, are blamed for rather a lot of predating in the garden bushes, which usually turns out to be the perfectly normal modus operandi of their local s/hawk hunting for a bite to eat!
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Old Sunday 13th September 2009, 17:27   #72
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On the subject of s/hawks and gardens, last week I was inside the house looking through an open window, when suddenly an exocet missile (or should that be the AIM 26 Falcon missile!) flew past the window with a 'whoosh' with what seemed like inches to spare between the missile and the open window.

At the time there were around 30 birds at or near the feeders, most of them recently fledged goldfinches and greenfinches. The exocet missile (i.e. the male sparrowhawk), performed what looked like a 180 turnaround in mid flight to persue the bird(s) that had scattered into the trees behind him on his approach.

A truly fantastic sight to witness and listen to - the alarm calls, then the deadly silence that follows. After a while, all returns to 'normality' with the s/hawk long gone - more often than not without a catch.

Unfortunatley, the only down side, is that being in an area where red kites are a common sight, I receive a lot of reports of red kites 'attacking my *insert fluffy bird name here* in the bushes. Kites, it seems, are blamed for rather a lot of predating in the garden bushes, which usually turns out to be the perfectly normal modus operandi of their local s/hawk hunting for a bite to eat!
Hi Helen,

Yes it's something you have to see and hear, a Sparrowhawk attack, you never forget it, but it's almost impossible to explain how it made you "feel". As you've probably read in this thread, I'm extremely fortunate, as the Sparrowhawks also sometimes eat their meal in my garden. I'm sure that they know I'm videoing or photographing them, but as long as I stay indoors they don't seem to mind.

As many attacks as I've seen, I still feel the same mixture of wonder, shock, and maybe just a little fear, each time it happens. The other thing that always amazes me is how quickly all of the potential prey go back to feeding.
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Old Tuesday 15th September 2009, 11:32   #73
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I've been debating whether to post this, and where. I thought it's something that's relevant, but I'm wary of giving the "cute and fluffy" club any more reasons to scare off Sparrowhawks.

Anyway, I decided this thread doesn't get read much by those not interested in Raptors, so I'm posting it here.

I've witnessed two main ways that Sparrowhawks kill, three if you count death caused by the impact of the strike on smaller birds.

The most common way is to insert the talons deep into the prey, and basically wait until it stops squirming and start plucking. Sometimes it means moving the talons about to speed the process up a bit.

The other way is to start plucking almost immediately while still keeping the talons deep inside the prey. This is mostly what happens to larger birds like Collard Doves and Pigeons. This is also how the juveniles kill most of the time.

So I suppose that the first way is better than being eaten alive. But sometimes, including yesterday, there's a slightly different approach. One thing that you can't ignore is the screeching of a dying Starling. The screeching usually carries on for minutes, sometimes longer if the Sparrowhawk is a juvenile and is eating it alive. Lately I've noticed that the screeching has been over in seconds, and I couldn't work out why. Well, thanks to the pictures I took yesterday, I think I've worked it out.

One of the male Sparrowhawks is still inserting his talons, but he's not waiting, and he's also not plucking. He goes straight into the brain through the eye sockets (that's the bit I was wary of posting). It sounds, and actually looks quite nasty, but it means the prey is being killed much quicker. It also means the Sparrowhawk can start his meal almost straight away.

I have pictures of this just after it happened, but I don't think posting them is a good idea. I suppose I might be persuaded otherwise, but like I said, I'm very wary of posting pictures that might adversely affect birds that have a hard enough time as it is.
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Old Thursday 27th December 2018, 08:49   #74
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I have seen several "Kills" in my back garden by both male and female.but everyone has just happened in an instance, as there are no trees around for cover for the hawk,looking from a bedroom window I have seen male and female comming along the gardens then up and over the fences to "supprise" its prey,
interestingly though there is often a male just sat on the garden fence, never seen a female doing this in the garden.

Last year I watched a male try to break into a house martins nest, unsuccessfully.
I have never heard of this befoe though

Me too I watched one morning I say watched I do mean I was just looking out the window and it all happened .. a Sparrowhawk do exactly this flying low and fast . Up and over about 5-6 fences and on the last it turned so quickly and down lots of birds scattered . I didnt see the sparrowhawk for about 5 mins but when it did emerge it had a small bird in its talons .
I think this tactic is used mainly in this Enviroment its more opportunist as there could have been birds in any of the gardens . I hope one day to witness it in my own garden
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Old Thursday 27th December 2018, 11:16   #75
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I had an interesting encounter with a Sparrowhawk this spring. I was out ringing (I’m a trainee ringer), on Dartmoor, on this particular day we were mainly catching Meadow Pipits. I noticed very far away, 2 birds interacting, (too far for my ID skills) I alerted my trainer who quickly got his bins on it, and it was a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. I thought for a moment, one was attacking the other but after at least a minute of watching this interaction, with them getting closer and closer to us, eventually going their separate ways and disappearing. It seemed far more like they were “playing” or as my trainer put it “it’s simply the joy of flying” as he said he’d witnessed Sparrowhawks and Kestrels doing this multiple times.

Now on to the more relevant part of the story.... 20 minutes later. Whilst processing the lastest net round of Meadow Pipits. All of a sudden, within a foot of my face, whoosh!!!! whilst holding a Mipit, a Sparrowhawk, which then crashed into a bramble bush with no fear whatsoever! Next, the sound of a (i presume previously caught) Mipit in the talons of the Sparrowhawk. Which sat there for about 5 secs staring back at us and then flew off.

I presume this was the bird from earlier and had, by chance, seen what we were up to and stalked us for a while before getting an easy(ish) meal! It was a very interesting and entertaining day!

Tom
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