Bird ex­cels in back yard hunt

Salford Advertiser - - SALFORD CITY COLLEGE -

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.

Amy Lewis

A spar­rowhawk perched on a wooden fence

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