WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS IMAGES THAT SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND DISTRESSING
I made a comment on the forum about the diversity of some birds of prey diets. Not so the peregrine. It's almost exclusively feeds on other birds, usually caught on the wing. According to Birds of the Western Palearctic (BWP), in the UK 117 species have been recorded as peregrine prey, from goldcrests to grey herons. While I was out checking the livestock today, I was looking at the cattle in the fields down towards Spitend Point when I flushed a large immature female peregrine from the ground c.70m ahead of me. She headed off east, but swung back over the seawall and flew back past me, before powering off out over the Swale. As she went past, I could see by her bulging crop that she had just fed and, hoping that it wasn't one of our breeding lapwings, I investigated. The kill was obvious: a mass of white feathers spread over the ground suggested that she'd taken a black-headed gull. But when I looked closer, I was a little bit surprised to see that the unfortunate victim was actually a little egret! I'm not sure whether little egret figures in that list of 117, but they are clearly now on the menu.
Little egret kill - Gordon Allison
Incidentally, "ET" is the BTO code for little egret and has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg's cute alien.
The 2 spoonbills were again around the reserve all day today, though they only visited the Flood briefly in the evening, before returning to their new favourite hang-out further east. These pools can be viewed from Swale hide, although the birds are quite distant. Also on the Flood today, a drake garganey at Wellmarsh, 90 black-tailed & 3 bar-tailed godwits and 26 turnstone. Single ruff & whimbrel and 4 greenshank were scattered across the site and there was a return to form for Med gulls, with at least 65 birds, including one flock of 57. Apart from the peregrine, the female merlin was still present, as was a buzzard. At least 2 wheatear remained today and there were singing blackcap & whitethroat at Kingshill Farm. A pair of grey partridge were again at the start of the access track this afternoon.
I've no doubt that the peregrine was responsible for the demise of the egret. As you suggest, peregrines aren't scavengers and a large female is more than capable of taking out large prey items like mallards & gulls, so a little egret wouldn't have caused it too much trouble I suspect. The "classic" peregrine kill involves the stoop (at speeds up to 200mph), with the prey being struck on the back of the head by the peregrines feet, which usually kills it on the spot.
As a novice I have to ask the question(s) - Was the ET predated by a larger beast, and had the peregrine chanced on the kill, or is that not the way of the Peregrine?
Hello Gordon, it just goes to show that you never can tell what you are going to see. I would never have guessed that.