SPARROWHAWKS AND THEIR PREY

A while ago I wrote about the time when I saw a

SPARROWHAWK WITH ITS TALONS ROUND A BLACKBIRD

I have had two different opinions and have put them below.  What do you think?  Let me know

Mehr says –

it’s amazing that so many people like birds, but not sparrowhawks!!! they are birds to, and amazing ones, and since i have worked all my life with birds, and studied hawks, I can tell you that they play an importent part in the ecosystem, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.

god/nature created the birds, and also the hawk for a purpose, and we are not the ones to judge or interfere.

i can asure you it is a highly natural and expected death for the samll birds to die by a hawk, but to get hit by a car, shot, poisoned or overfedd to death is a humilating one.

what you did, trying to scare the hawk away is not nice, how can you want to save one and kill the other?? respect and love nature, as a entire system, not just the part that is cute and accpetable for your personal gain in feelings….

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

A reply from Shell to the same article –

I just wish life was fairer on the smaller birds. Now, if it was a cat prowling around and attacking a Sparrowhawk are you saying we should just let nature take its course? It’s natural for cats to hunt birds and other small animals as they are also natural born hunters but it isn’t nice to see anything being killed.

A Sparrowhawk hunts to survive but when it visits someone’s garden and feeds off the birds time and again, day in day out how can that make a bird lover feel? How many birds does a SH eat in a day? If they eat several then that’s several garden birds down, over a space of a week we are probably talking in our tens or even twenties, or more.

I have seen other animals attacked by big birds and then left half eaten, even if that.

I heard a SH kill a Starling and it was the most horrendous sound, the frightening cries of the Starling and its desperation to get away so you can’t blame people feeling sad about losing smaller birds.

We have also had a Buzzard visit and it was by no means as persistent as the SH. I think the Buzzard might have took over the territory of the SH because it has not been here for a while. The Buzzard did not stop by and goes hunting elsewhere.

 just read a news article about 75 Starlings crash landing and they assumed the birds had been chased by a predator like a Sparrowhawk.

I posted a comment earlier but it has disappeared

Shell

-0-0-0-0-0-

My reply –

Songbirds are declining in number.  Sparrowhawks are rising in number.  Sparrowhawks do not have any natural predators.  Songbirds have a lot of natural predators.  I agree nature created birds and hawks – but in any situation it is bad to have an inbalance – too many predators to too few prey.

I have heard so many first hand experiences of sparrowhawks decimating hedges with birds in and attacking any birds that landed on bird tables – causing blood to be all over the bird table.

-0-0-0-0-0-

Do you have any opinions or thoughts on this?

 

15 thoughts on “SPARROWHAWKS AND THEIR PREY

  1. TopVeg

    I suppose Mehr has a point – but we so enjoy watching the small birds on the birdtable & miss them terribly when the sparrowhawk has visited & cleared them all up.

    Perhaps we should do more to help protect the small birds – so that they have more of a chance to escape the hawk. They are just a sitting target when the bird table is in open ground. We planted a willow next to the bird table & it has grown so that it covers one side of the table. So the hawk cannot just swoop down to get them. That has made a big difference. I wonder what else we can do.

    Thanks – great blog

  2. garth owe

    Sparrowhawks

    Feeding garden birds definitely gives these birds an advantage so I feel we should shorten the odds. If there are too many attacks try moving the feeders around, regularly if possible, don’t concentrate the feeders, note the general line of attack and break up the line of flight. I have put in vertical bamboo canes a few inches apart and also have individual feeding spots so that an early warning can be given by a solitary feeding bird.
    The worst time of the year is when all the young tits are feeding and the hawks have young too, so this is when tactics are important to reduce carnage before your eyes. I love to see a hawk and it is also a good sign things are right in the bird world as a lack of them means there are problems.

  3. Trish Post author

    Hi Garth, Thanks for joining in. Trying to shorten the odds is a good idea. In some ways I suppose seeing hawks may mean that all is well in nature – but if sparrowhawk numbers keep increasing maybe it could be likened to putting a shark in a garden pond. Or am I exagerrating?

    Yes, lets shorten the odds.
    Moving feeders around regularly
    Dont concentrate the feeders,
    note the general line of attack and break up the line of flight.

    what a good idea to put vertical bamboo canes a few inches apart

    But how do you have individual feeding spots so that an early warning can be given by a solitary feeding bird.

    These ideas and conversations are too interesting to be hidden away in a comments area. I will change them into an article and use it a a post

    Thank you. Trisha

    If anyone would like to write a guest post then be my guest! I will help in any way I can

  4. Shell

    We stopped using our bird table because of this. We placed some feeders in thick bushes but the birds prefer to eat from the ground now. There are no cats around so we place the food on ground feeders surrounded by large plants. This has helped a lot.

  5. Trish Post author

    You’ve stopped using your bird table! I knew two people who were so fed up of blood on their birdtables from sparrowhawks swooping down that they stopped feeding birds. One said itwas horrible trying to scrub off a bird table.

    I never thought of the fact that sparrowhawks catch birds in flight. I wonder if they catch any on the ground.

    Maybe that is why my garden bush that I put food near is so popular. I get a lot of birds hopping about in and out of this bush and getting the food I put near it. There is a lot of good information here. Trisha

  6. Shell

    I had not option because the hawk kept lingering around ready to swoop. I was going to use it again but I thought it may attract the hawk again.

    I think they can snatch birds off the ground and that’s why I’ve camouflaged the area with various plants and shrubbery so that it would have a hard job getting to the birds. The hawk seems to have gone now that I have done that, I am still wary though.

    I’ve fed birds under the bushes too, especially when it’s really windy which they seem to appreciate.

    I would love to put the table back up but the hawk used to wait in the trees and if it happens to fly over it will see them hanging around the table.

  7. Arlene Morrison

    I have large bird table and lots of feeders and have a large number of Goldfinches,Siskins,Bullfinches,Robins Bluetits CoalTits Blackbirds Nuthatch etc that have been feeding in my garden as safely as I can make it given the prevalance of killer cats in the neighbourhood and a sparrowhawk is definitely an unwanted guest in my garden and I chase it when I see it.It only turned up recently and I am hoping it will move on.
    My bird table has a roof and has been enclosed by my husband on three sides by the largest plastic mesh I could find~ the open side nearest the lounge window. It took awhile for them to get used to it but they hop through as though it wasn’t there now.
    All the little birds hop through the mesh or through the side bits under the roof and the bigger birds such as Blackbirds come round the back.
    I would buy and put food out for the hawk.mice chicks etc but I think that would not be useful as we started with one squirrel and now I have two of those!
    I was torn when it first turned up but I have given it a lot of thought and there is no way I am providing a larder for a predator~ my visitors give myself and husband a lot of pleasure and we go to a lot of trouble and expense to get them through the winter.
    This is my decision and I am sticking to it!

  8. Shell

    Hi Arlene,

    I understand. If you started feeding the Hawk it would very likely partner with another one and then nest close by and then the family will grow and your garden birds would gradually disappear. Even if they weren’t all caught I expect many would fly knowing there were predators in the area.

    I watched on TV about a person who fed bird of preys and would go out on his tractor with a load of raw meat. It attracted many birds, could’ve been around 50 or something like that. One got to know about it, then another and before he knew it there was a large group of them there.

  9. Arlene Morrison

    Hi Shell ~
    you have hit the nail on the head~ the guy in question feeds Red Kites baby chicks I think?and has been doing so for years~ whilst I applaud his dedication it has obviously skewed the local bird population as perhaps I am doing. I have had to make a decision to try to keep a whole raft of small birds going in my small garden who are having a hard time because of the loss of habitat,food sources and an explosion in the feline population.
    The enclosing of the bird table works quite well as it also limits the number of rooks who visit as there is an extremely large population on the fringe of the wood about 100 yards away, and is worth trying if your bird table is suitable.
    I do belong to the RSPB~ Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust etc and hope that thay can promote the welfare of birds of prey in more suitable surroundings!

  10. Trish Post author

    Thanks for getting in touch. Goldfinches,Siskins,Bullfinches,Robins Bluetits CoalTits Blackbirds Nuthatch – you do get a lot of birds. And the money we spend feeding them is well spent I think.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say you made the garden as safe as you can can make it given the prevalance of killer cats in the neighbourhood and a sparrowhawk

    What another brilliant idea about keeping large birds off bird table – mesh on 3 sides and an open side near a window. I have put canes round my bird table – they are stuck in the ground and are higher than the bird table so they make a ‘prison’ of the bird table. Only small birds and blackbirds and thrushes can get through.

    If you click on the link below and scroll halfway down the writing you will see a photo of my birdtable. At the moment the canes have blown down – that is a job we have to do today – put them back up again.

    http://birdtablenews.com/2009/02/how-to-keep-pigeons-off-a-bird-table/

    I agree with you as well . I have also gone to a lot of trouble and expense to feed garden birds this frozen, cold winter. They were frantic at the feeders sometimes. Heaven knows how much I have spent on bird food. I’d like to buy a camera nest box but always spend any money I have saved on bird food!

    Apologies for not replying sooner, but I’ve had a bit of internet connection trouble.

    I started a forum but had to stop for a while because of unexpected problems. If you would like to go to the link WAYS TO STOP LARGE BIRDS EATING ALL THE BIRD FOOD’ you are welcome – as is anyone to add your point of view. Or start a new topic

    Trisha

    PS – Your bird table idea to keep large birds off – I have added it to this article. Hopefully it may help someone in the future

    http://birdtablenews.com/2010/03/ways-to-stop-sparrowhawk-attacks-in-gardens/

  11. Trish Post author

    Hi Shell, I do agree. I’m pleased there are other people who agree with me.

    Your understanding of the garden /wildlife situation is brill. Of course if a sparrowhawk saw a lot of birds about it would stay and build a nest and breed – and feed on the birds. I had never thought of how a sparrowhawk decides to nest – but of course food will be important.

    It is interesting how birds get to know food is about.

    Trisha.

  12. N Campbell-Smith

    I agree with most of the above items ,but my thought is that by putting feeding stations ,of whatever sort out for wild birds are we then not morally responsible,if these feeding stations become a target .Is it possible that the birds would fair better if we had not fed them,a point which I would like to put to the RSPB as a member .They reckon that they are far too busy to answer emails ,it is sad when you would like an answer to a question that is important to you ,that an organisation you have supported for years has not time for their members Nigel Surrey

  13. Shell

    I don’t think the birds would fair any better to be honest if you stop feeding them. If you encounter a Sparrow Hawk stalking the garden then altering the feeding plan should help the smaller birds. If there are one or even two SHs flying around then you would need to be extra vigilant and think very carefully about what to do, even if it means stopping feeding them for a week or two until there is no threat.

    I haven’t seen a SH in my garden for many months now, and I have stopped hanging up feeders. I have camouflaged an area for the birds in which they can eat.

    When the bird of prey was watching the feeders, I took them down and didn’t put much food out as normal until it was all clear. It would have been more difficult in the winter but I would’ve done my best to protect the garden birds and made sure they had something to eat.

    They are very happy out there and have a wonderful life eating healthily. If it wasn’t for me and no doubt many others feeding them through the harsh winter I am certain most would’ve died.

    To see the same groups of birds flying around after winter is a privilege.

  14. Michael Shahoud

    I was priviliged to see a Sparrow Hawk attack and kill a Collared Dove in my back garden early this year. In the 10 years I’ve lived in Kent this was the first time I witnessed this event. The kill was not swift, but it was as precise as a bird of prey could manage. It was a female SH. No doubt she had young to feed. SHs kill a fraction of the birds cats kill, and many cats kill only for pleasure! I have nothing against SHs, and admire their stealth and skill. I also love to watch garden birds on our bird feeders, and on occasion we have over 30 birds feeding all at once. There is a place for every creature on this earth.

  15. peter

    In my experience small birds are perfectly capable of escaping hawk predation with some getting noticably cocky. One blackbird in particular would ignore the warning cries of the other birds to get the food for himself while always looking out at the sparrowhawks perch…time and time again the hawk would swoop and the blackbird would fly straight through holes in bushes and always really narrowly escape Unfortunatly one day it glanced of a window and was easily caught. If birds heed warning cries there safe however it seems warning cries are used to cheet to scare other birds , So you get a certain percentage not taking as much notice with inevitable results. I have no doubts my feeding allows many birds to survive the winter and have no qualms helping a sparrow hawk through either .They both need each other to remain fit. At least 10 swoops are required for a catch and the victims are invariably the ones that took the wrong direction Sometimes it looks like they just give up when they realize there mistake. I just make sure i feed near heavy cover so the odds are fair. If the hawk hangs around to long the birds just leave for a bit. It seems to me mostly young and tired hawks try at bird feeders older and more experienced hawks seem happy catching on the fly along hedgerows.Sw Scotland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *