One of my birding pals told me of two families who, last year, stopped putting bird food out for birds because it was distressing to see sparrowhawks attacking and killing sparrows every time bird food was put out in the garden.
The two families live in the city of York.
Susan lives in a house with a large back garden which is on a busy road. It seems she has put bird food on the bird table for years and got a lot of sparrows feeding at the bird tables. She saw sparrowhawks attacking sparrows but put it to the back of her mind. She thought that was how nature operated.
The last straw was when she had to start cleaning and scrubbing the blood off bird table every day. She said it was a sickening job.
As soon as she put bird food out the sparrows arrived.
As soon as the sparrows arrived the sparrowhawk arrived and the rest was carnage.
She has stopped feeding the birds. She truly feels it is not worth it. She feels the food she puts out is bait and she is luring sparrows to their death.
The second lady lives on the other side of the city and used to put cut apples on her lawn. Again it is the sparrowhawks who visit. She has watched sparrowhawks dive on birds eating the apple.
An apple a day does not keep the sparrowhawk away.
It does seem as though it has been a vicious circle.
- Food is put out for the sparrows.
- Sparrowkawk learns where the sparrows visit
- The sparrowhawk watcher from cover for prey
- The sparrowhawk flies soft, low and silently to catch, kill and eat it’s unsuspecting prey.
What would have been the answer? Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe they did the right thing when they stopped putting bird food out.
Here is a short video of a sparrowhawk in our garden. It is eating a pigeon.