Bird excels in back yard hunt
MY uncle David doesn’t like sparrowhawks as they prey on the baby birds on his bird table.
He watches David Attenborough as the wildlife superman describes, in minute detail, how the cute baby Arctic hare is slaughtered by a fox, but he isn’t keen when a bit of wild behaviour happens in his garden.
It can be quite upsetting if you watch a tiny blue tit or sparrow being fed and nurtured by its mum and dad, only to become a meal for a predator before it gets a chance to make its way in the world.
But we should really be marvelling at the wonderful sparrowhawk, one of the few birds of prey you will see in your garden. And, like many creatures, numbers have fallen both locally and nationally over the past 40 years. Much of this is down to the use of pesticides by farmers and land owners.
Sparrowhawks are one of our smallest birds of prey, the male being somewhere between a blackbird and a collared dove in size. The female is larger, up to the size of a pigeon.
Because of their small size, they excel in hunting in small wooded areas, so your garden is an ideal place for them to spring into action.
They have a number of methods of catching prey using sudden changes of direction or ambushing smaller birds from a perch. It’s a bit like a Hollywood car chase in your own back yard.
And they are not a fussy bird, feeding on finches, sparrow and tits. They tend to go for easy prey with sick and injured birds and fledglings providing a high percentage of their food.
Sparrowhawks have rounded wings and a relatively long, narrow tail. Males are small with a blue-grey back and white underparts showing reddish-orange barring.
The female is much larger with browner plumage above and grey bars below. They both have reddish cheeks. Younger birds are also browner on the wings and back.
They are truly beautifullooking birds and what a joy it is to know that they hunt so close to our homes.
So let’s appreciate our brilliant birds of prey as they use our back gardens as hunting grounds but spare a thought for their dinner as well, particularly at this time of year.
Quite rightly uncle David spends a fortune on food to keep his bird tables stocked and his generous spirit is much appreciated all year round, but once the weather turns bad, that extra source of food becomes essential to our wildlife’s wellbeing.
Keep those bird tables stocked.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey.
It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow.
To become a member of the trust go to the website www.lancswt.
●» A sparrowhawk perched on a wooden fence