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Sparrowhawk

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Old Wednesday 15th May 2019, 10:44   #1
delia todd
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Sparrowhawk

Very rarely I see a Sparrowhawk in the garden here, usually a juvenile in the Autumn.

Just now a Wood Pigeon started to fly down to the ground when he changed course flying up and out of sight.... followed by a brown flash, which I presume was a female Sparrowhawk. There was no squeal, so I guess she missed.

Searching around I can find no sign of either bird now sadly. The smaller birds are now singing etc so I presume she's moved on.
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Old Wednesday 15th May 2019, 18:44   #2
pratincol
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delia todd View Post
Very rarely I see a Sparrowhawk in the garden here, usually a juvenile in the Autumn.

Just now a Wood Pigeon started to fly down to the ground when he changed course flying up and out of sight.... followed by a brown flash, which I presume was a female Sparrowhawk. There was no squeal, so I guess she missed.

Searching around I can find no sign of either bird now sadly. The smaller birds are now singing etc so I presume she's moved on.
Always good to see a Sparrowhark- a sign the food chain is still operating as normal.
A female Sparrowhawk often visits our garden, once taking up a not very subtle position on top of the bird feeder, waiting for it's prey.
It's had no obvious effect on the local bird population; the House Sparrows. amongst otheres are multiplying year on year and it's costing us a small fortune in bird feed.
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Old Wednesday 15th May 2019, 19:24   #3
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Thanks Pratincol.

I'd love to see the Sparrowhawks make more regular visits; there's been times I'm sure they're around, as the birds have suddenly disappeared or just been sitting stock still!! But I just couldn't see one.
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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 18:06   #4
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I've rushed this a bit, as there's still a few young Starlings in the bird baths:


Assuming Woodies are the same as Pigeons, they don't make a sound when caught by a predator... not even when being eaten alive, Delia. I've only seen small birds taken in flight (mostly by Fred), and I've never seen any Sparrowhawk get near any Pigeon, including a Wood Pigeon, unless the prey was on the ground or ill. Pigeons are fast, Delia - they're obviously not as manoeuvrable as the slightly shorter-winged Sparrowhawk, but they're fast in horizontal flight.


BTW, as I've probably said before, listen for the Corvids... they'll let you know a Sparrowhawk is around long before you see it. (Mind you, they'll react similarly for other predators; Cats, Foxes etc; they do apparently make a slightly different noise for Goshawks and Kites etc, though I've not witnessed that myself). Often the Sparrowhawk needs to get into cover and wait to ambush prey, that's when you'll hear the Corvids first, not when the actual attack happens.

I'm pretty sure that your Sparrowhawk will return, though I'd bet on it getting a Blackbird or Starling rather than a Pigeon.
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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 18:15   #5
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Hi Chris

Thanks for that. The only previous time I've seen Sparrowhawks with prey they have, indeed, been Starlings and they did make a racket (really not easy to observe)!

I presumed the Wood Pigeon had got away, though there wasn't much distance between them - just seconds really. But yes, the pigeons are very fast. So are Sprawks, of course, but probably not for any distance?

I don't have enough corvids here to be able to observe their behaviour, at least they don't hang around. Generally a couple of Jackdaws come when I first put feed out in the morning, then they're off till the next day. Crows and (less often) Rooks are just very occasional visitors.
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Old Friday 17th May 2019, 08:27   #6
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I remember watching a sparrowhawk take ages to eat a bird in the doorway of a garden outhouse. Feathers everywhere. My companion, a really experienced ecologist who knew her birds better than I ever will spent ages trying to work out the prey on the grounds that the obvious, pigeon, was too large for a sparrowhawk. A few hours later when it had finished we went to check and it was indeed a pigeon.
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Old Friday 17th May 2019, 18:06   #7
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This comes up every now and again. Female Sparrowhawks will take Woodpigeons (I've seen them do it, most notably the day after someone questioned their ability to do so on here!).

Males can take Feral Pigeons, Maz and I watched one do so right in front of us while we enjoyed a pint at the Shepherd and Flock pub on the big roundabout (really big!) at the edge of Farnham: it trapped and knocked it down against the wall of the pub and killed it right there.

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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 07:24   #8
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Just to expand a bit on John's post above, in case it's of interest:


The main problem with males taking Pigeons, is how long it takes to eat it. Of course, a big meal will mean the male can go longer before it's next meal, but it means risking losing the prey to Crows or Magpies or another scavenger. As a rule, the male can't carry a live Pigeon (not just due to weight, but a wing(s) flapping about makes flying far with it almost impossible), but can handle a half-eaten dead Pigeon quite easily. The problem is I've never seen it take less than about 40 minutes to half-eat even a small female Pigeon. Even subduing the Pigeon enough to actually start eating can take 10 minutes or more (Although some wise males develop a much quicker method of killing, but usually it applies to Starlings more than Pigeons). 40 minutes is a long time to be on the ground, so it's a risk that I'd guess not many male Sparrowhawks will take more than once... unless it's starving.

A female Sparrowhawk has a similar problem with Wood Pigeons (a Woody is nearly twice the weight of a female Sparrowhawk. I'd be interested to see a pic of a Sparrowhawk flying with a struggling Woody in her talons, as I think it would be quite a feat), though Pigeons aren't really a problem at all. Young males will often try Pigeons, but they mess up quite often. Over the years, I've only seen one Starling out of maybe 100 escape from a male Sparrowhawk after being pinned to the ground... I've seen many Pigeons escape even after being pinned. So the possibility of a lot of wasted effort for a male trying for a Pigeon, but ignored the almost certainty of a meal if the prey is Starling-size or smaller, means males often ignore Pigeons unless the Pigeon is sick. (I've seen a Sparrowhawk perched a few feet above a Collared Dove in my trees - he ignored the Colly and waited until he took a fledgling Starling struggling to fly after bathing - he had to fly through the tree and past the Colly to swoop on the Starling.. The Colly was totally unaware of the Sparrowhawk perched above, and I'm sure would have been taken by a female Sparrowhawk... or even a larger male.)

All of the above applies to fit adult Pigeons and adult Sparrowhawks, juvenile Pigeons that have recently left the nest are generally scrawny, so are easier for even a small male Sparrowhawk to subdue - same applies to sick Pigeons, especially ones with Canker that can't eat so lose a lot of weight/strength. Juvenile Sparrowhawks are learning what they can catch with the least effort, and will try for anything at least once.
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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 08:42   #9
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I recall many moons ago, a male Sparrowhawk mantling on a live Collared Dove by the River Thames. Unintentionally I disturbed it from the towpaths so the hawk took off with difficulty and headed out over the river with the prey flapping and struggling. This was only a couple of feet above the water but at times the pair came so close to ditching and I genuinely feared for a watery end to both. However the predator managed to make land and crashed down exhausted (probably 7 seconds to cross) on a lawned area and panted a while then resumed plucking and killing the hapless dove. I cannot remember hearing any sounds - after about a minute or so the hawk flew off with it's limp catch into a wooded area.
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