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A female sparrowhawk has just taken a collared dove by the kitchen window. Not all that unusual here, but these goings on still surprise me in this medium-size suburban garden.

For once, I didn't accidentally scare the sparrowhawk away - glimpsed feathers flying around, and I guess I've learned not to immediately stick my head up. Previous experience suggests they'll return to their kill later if disturbed, so at least the dead victim isn't 'wasted'.

After some plucking, she's carried the kill away to under a shrub at the bottom of the garden, and has continued plucking (and presumably eating) for about the last half hour. There are already some left-over wings under there from a previous kill, so perhaps its her favourite spot. There are some blue tits in the shrub just a few feet from where this is going on - I doubt their intelligence runs to "She's not going to eat me while she's still got half a dove to finish", but equally can't believe they hadn't noticed - perhaps a sparrowhawk below them on the ground doesn't trigger their fear like the silhouette in the sky or one hurtling towards them does. I wonder how many of the scattered feathers will shortly be incorporated into other birds' nests?

I might take a different attitude if the sparrowhawks target 'my' swifts when they arrive to breed in about a couple of month. I don't think they can catch up with a swift in flight, but they learn that the swifts regularly enter their nest-hole, and can hang around and ambush them. I accidentally 'rescued' a swift from a sparrowhawk's talons the other year - I didn't know what was going on - just went to look, and the sparrowhawk flew off - think the swift was still OK - it managed to take to the air. They don't intentionally land except at the nest, but it's a myth that they can't take off from the ground.

Hmmm. Sparrowhawk still plucking. Wish she'd get on with it, or get the dove down to a size where she can carry it away - I want to go out in the garden again!


  • I never like seeing the Merlin hawks dive into my yard and snatch a Chickadee or Sparrow but they have to eat too, I wish they were big enough to grab a Magpie.
    I was feeding Chickadees and Nuthatches some time back and the birds sensed danger and took off, except the Nuthatch that was in my hand about to take a peanut. It must of sensed I was good protection, it crouched into my hand for about five minutes until it sensed the danger was gone. It was an amazing experience.
  • Well my feasting Sparrowhawk finally left. She didn't appear to be there any more, so I went out into the garden. Maybe I still scared her off, because 'something' flew off behind me, and a small portion of dove carcase was conveniently left on top of the compost heap! Anyway, she'd either eaten most of it, or flew away with it.

    Interesting to hear about your U.S. birds. I not a great bird expert - had to look it up, but it seems we do get the Merlin in the U.K. - I don't think they're known for coming into gardens here. RSPB says that the Merlin is the UK's smallest bird of prey, but there can't be much in it between that and Hobby, Kestrel, and Sparrowhawk.

    We don't have anything we call a 'Chickadee', but they seem to be related to our various Tits. The Collared Dove (as eaten earlier) only appeared in the UK in the late 1950's, but is now common everywhere, so a very successful bird, despite frail-looking nests that often fall down, and being easy prey for female sparrowhawks (probably a bit too large for the male ones).
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,836
    I agree that the male sparrowhawk predates up to blackbird sized prey, while the larger female will take collared doves and wood pigeons. 
    You probably didn't frighten off the sparrowhawk as ours leaves a pile of ribs, wings, and feathers to clear up, rarely flying away with its catch.
    The poor collared doves nests around here are more in danger from the magpies. 
    The Merlin, Hobby and Kestrel are the small birds of prey, but a female sparrowhawk is 25% bigger.😁
    Isn't wildlife interesting. 😁
  • Hello, actually I would have to call them my Canadian birds. But they don't recognize the border I share with my American friends. (a little humour)
    I'm seeing Golden and Bald Eagles every time I'm down along the Bow river here in Calgary. The Bow is pretty much a highway for the eagles in spring and fall. This winter some stayed put here, I guess because the river didn't totally freeze over.
    A few days ago I was in the brush feeding birds and came face to face with a coyote walking along the path. He didn't see me standing there until he was close enough for me to spit and hit hit him, I didn't of course. We just stared at each other for a bit and he turned around and slowly walked back around the bend. Biggest Coyote I've seen, beautiful winter coat, perhaps that's what made the dog look so big. 
    We also get bears and Mountain lions come through our city along the river. I've seen bears a couple times but never a big cat.

  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    Amazing. # MissingCanada
  • Oops! I'd even read Alberta in your profile, so don't know what I was thinking of - Georgia maybe? - similar sort-of person's name ending in 'a' thing (feeble excuse)!
  • I went to garden one day and there was a headless pigeon on the garden!a sparrow hawk came down and grabbed it's body as I was there.horrible sight!
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,836
    We now have (for the first time) Buzzards circling over the village,  nearly see them every day.😮
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    It's not Calgary, but we have falcons nesting close by, which is all rather thrilling.

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