Sparrow Hawk Kill

Big Garden Birdwatch

Big Garden Birdwatch
Big Garden Birdwatch is the world's biggest wildlife survey. It's fun, easy and only takes an hour to do.
Big Garden Birdwatch

Sparrow Hawk Kill

  • We live in the semi detached suburbia of South Manchester so I was quite suprised to witness a sparrow hawk take an adult pidgeon in the back garden this morning.  I can only assume tha the sparrow hawk must have been quite hungry or upset by all the rainy and windy weather to come this far for breakfast.

  • Hello Lowey,

    This is a fairly common event in gardens all over the country where birds gather in numbers. Many of us on these forums see them, and some people see them regularly. It can be distressing, but brilliant to watch. Such magnificent birds!

  • Hi Lowey and welcome from me in Berkshire

    As the others have said, Sparrowhawks are common visitors to gardens especially if you feed birds. You don't have to live in the country, they visit urban gardens as well.

    Incidentally, I noticed you posted to Big Garden Birdwatch. There's a Community Forum which goes on all year round if you want to check it out.

  • Thanks TeeJay - nice site map there in Community Forum thanks

  • Glad you found the forum map useful, Lowey. Not too many people are aware of it.

    The largest prey I've personally seen a Sparrowhawk take is a Starling as you can see below. But females, which this is, are easily capable of taking pigeons. The saying "the female of the species is more deadly than the male" is very true with this species.

  • Thanks for a warm welcome from you all.  I actually took some HD video  after the hawk started breakfast I will post it if you like so that you can see / sex the sparrow hawk.  It is not for the faint hearted !

  • Is that really what passes for entertainment around here? REALLY? The thought that someone would sit and video something like that absolutely sickens me to the soul.

  • Err not entertainment as such no.  I don't know much about birds (yet) but to me this was a rare and unusual event (which by all accounts it is not).  Video was an instant thought to actually identify the bird, age sex etc.

    BTW I have not shared or posted the video.

  • That second bird's a juvenile... sexing juveniles is not easy but to me it looks dainty and small-billed enough to be a male. The pattern of vertical arrowheads rather than barring on the chest say juvenile, also the quite rich brown colour (adult females are greyer, not really far off the grey of adult males). I had a hard time finding a pic of an adult female that wasn't on prey, so this comes with a gore warning: And this is always useful:

  • Hi Debz

    You might not like what I have to say but I have to say it - in nature, expect some blood and guts from time to time.

    Sparrowhawks have to kill to eat. It's obviously distressing to watch but at the end of the day nature is red in tooth and claw and that is something we humans, as perhaps the most devastating predator on the planet, should understand.

    Are all wildlife cameramen/photographers doing something wrong by recording predation? Seeing a lion bring down a zebra or a killer whale taking a seal, it's all the same thing, it always stirs deep emotions inside people but  predation is a natural event, I don't think anyone takes any joy from seeing it but we are a curious species. Humans document most aspects of our daily lives through video, photography or the written word, why not record an unusual event when it happens in the garden as others go out to do in wilderness areas for wildlife documentaries - for the benefit of human education more than entertainment in my opinion. 

    Going back to personal choice, it's never going to be everyones cup of tea, it's certainly not as easy to view as seeing the cute antics of baby animals for example but it's certainly not something to castigate a fellow forum member for, please remember our terms and conditions. If you find it uncomfortable viewing then you have a choice whether to watch it or not.

    From the title of this thread it is pretty clear what the subject matter will be, if you are a bit squeamish then maybe steer clear of threads that discuss the brutality, and beauty, that can be seen in natural predation.

    You might also wish to read our pages on predators and prey.

    Lowey, if you still want to show the video so we can identify the sex of the sparrowhawk, you may not need to as a result of the helpful pictures that have been posted, maybe add a caveat into the title of the thread that says 'contains potentially distressing footage' or similar.

  • Those look like two different birds to me... both are youngsters. The second looks little and small-billed and male-like, but I could be convinced the first is a female. If you're going to tell me they're the same bird then - dunno! Without seeing them in the flesh it's hard to assess size, and posture/state of feather rufflement affects the impression of body shape, but the first one does look bulkier with a proportionately smaller head than the second.

  • Thanks Alan, you're a gent.

    Lowey - you do not need a video for id purposes, photos are more than adequate and I wish it was an unusual occurance in my garden.

    That said - I still wish you a warm welcome to the boards.

  • Still looks more petite and male-like to me... but juvs are difficult! And because Sprawks take so long to attain adult plumage, and because mortality is so high in the first year, it makes sense that we see more juv-types than easier-to-sex adults.

  • This link may help you decide - link

  • LOL Ian, that's the same link Aiki gave. It must be a good one and worth a read!!!