Do birds of prey roost com­mu­nally?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A - Mike Toms

Though com­mu­nal roost­ing is gen­er­ally un­com­mon across di­ur­nal birds of prey, it is well known within the har­ri­ers and seen in vir­tu­ally all species world­wide. Com­mu­nal win­ter roosts of 100 or more marsh har­ri­ers have been doc­u­mented in the Nether­lands, but con­gre­ga­tions tend to be smaller here in the UK. Com­mu­nal win­ter roosts of hen har­ri­ers have been stud­ied in south-west Scot­land, re­veal­ing that there is a de­gree of in­ter­ac­tion be­tween in­di­vid­u­als when they ar­rive at the roost just be­fore dusk. Com­mu­nal roost­ing may al­low birds to gauge feed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties based on which in­di­vid­u­als look well-fed, but may also re­flect the avail­abil­ity of suit­able roost­ing sites. Many of these win­ter roosts take place at tra­di­tional places, with the best known lo­cated in the south and east of Eng­land.

At mixed roosts, marsh har­ri­ers can be joined by hen har­ri­ers, mer­lins, pere­grines and short-eared owls. Un­usu­ally for Bri­tish rap­tors, the har­ri­ers are of­ten seen roost­ing on the ground.

Though this bird flies alone, com­mu­nal roosts are com­mon among marsh har­ri­ers.

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