The sparrow hawk is the greatest threat to our flock of white garden doves.
Since I first starting keeping doves in 2008 I have witnessed countless attacks on my birds by the ‘hawk and although some have survived with complete recovery or scars, the majority have been killed, and usually eaten alive.
It is devastating to witness and there have been times when I have felt irresponsible for keeping the flock going, when most of them are destined to be predated soon after fledging, or of living in constant fear of attack. Occasionally the ‘hawk seems to be hunting elsewhere and the doves begin to enjoy life again, using their bath and sitting preening on the roof of their aviary.
I know of no deterrent to the sparrow hawk, although have found the terror eyes balloons to be effective in keeping the buzzards away (another predator).
If anyone reading this keeps garden doves in a dovecote and is having problems with predators, I would recommend keeping them in an aviary instead. This is how I reduced the attacks, although sadly have not eliminated them. The aviary has 2 flight holes that enable the birds to go in and out freely. It is also possible to close the flight holes during times of increased attacks. The protective environment also allows the squabs to leave the nest and be fed on the ground safely by their parents, without risk from cats or other predators.
The prevalence of sparrow hawks, where I live anyway, (West Berkshire) is due to the purposeful breeding of pheasants for shooting and the abundance of food for birds of prey when the pheasant chicks hatch.
I have seen no sparrows in this part of Berkshire, in fact I have read that they are in general decline throughout the UK, not only due to loss of habitat but because their numbers have been drastically reduced by the hunting sparrow hawk.
So much care to stop the doves being killed.
I had never thought of sparow hawk numbers being linked to the breeding of pheasants and the abundance of food – but it does make sense.
USE AN AVIARY INSTEAD. Tanya I’m sure this advice will help a lot of people
TANYA GOT IN TOUCH WITH ME BECAUSE OF AN ARTICLE I WROTE ON 21 MARCH 2010. READERS HAVE BEEN GETTING IN TOUCH WITH ME ON AND OFF SINCE THEN
THE ARTICLE IS – WAYS TO STOP SPARROWHAWK ATTACKS IN GARDENS. HERE IS THE LINK –
HOPE YOU FIND IT INTERESTING