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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Me, The Pony-Tail Flipping Hawk and Avian Fun and Games!

  Above: Not great but between the "V" in those branches is the smaller, grey coloured male sparrowhawk -they see a camera they move fast!

As you will know,if you invite "prey" animals into your garden then the predators follow.  Entice deer into your yards or gardens in the right countries then a predator such as a puma, leopard or even wolves/coyotes will follow.

The same applies with birds.  I've had a dove,pigeons, sparrows all killed and eaten by hungry sparrow hawks in my garden.  In the previous garden I had a kestrel (it moved so fast I assume that's what it was!) that flew in, rounded a corner of the house and flipped up the hair I had at the time tied up in a pony tail (sad -but I realised how bad it looked later).  Anyway, I was out cutting back brambles, bent over and something that was so silent pulled up the hair and I turned and just saw a brown blur fly round the other corner.

Puzzling but....

A couple days later I was in the back garden working on the large wildlife pond -same thing. A major "WTF?!" moment.  But the next week I was trimming back the bean tree when I caught a glimpse of the bird as it came from another direction and it flipped my hair again. We are talking a fraction of time 1-3 seconds and it was gone.

It was playing.  Practicing but it got bored and eventually took to the pigeons again.  

Now, the books all say that the sparrowhawk takes birds while in flight after a chase. One thing I have noticed in the last ten years or so is that these sparrowhawks do this, yes, BUT they will also actively go into hedges to try to catch birds -that includes trying to go into the heap of branches and twigs where hedgehog sleeps but dunnocks (hedge sparrows) were nesting. 

I've even seen it once pursuing birds on the ground and up into hedges. 

Above: the female (larger and brown coloured) was about 6 feet (1.4m) from me -bloody camera!)

New behaviour developed or something ornithologists have seen but not recorded because it was "one off abherrant behaviour" so not something the species does?

The experts (a-hem) say "Chase and kill in air" and I cannot find one reference in any of my books to this hedge/tree/ground hunting.


I can confirm that the male and female hawks are avian terrorists. 

I have watched their behaviour from my window daily over a couple years and I've noticed their entering hedges, etc. to try to catch birds. 

Above: Yes, she IS looking back at me.

But this year I have noticed a difference. 

Collared doves are known as "hawk food" -they might chase each other but compared to wild pigeons they are gentle and hawks take them a lot. Today I watched the dove on the fence where they always tend to sit -either the pair or the lone one. It was there a long time and I thought "You need to move or one of the hawks will get you". Looked down but then up as I thought one of the doves was chasing the other off....but one then casually arced back and landed in the tree above where the dove had been. 

It was the female hawk. 

I've seen them do this with the doves, pigeons and other birds. Time and again there was no way that these birds -which move like greased-up-lightning could possibly not make a kill. 

They are playing. Whether this is similar to a leopard -there is very good night time footage of a leopard in Africa moving right into the centre of a group of antelope and then scaring them. Not killing but scaring them. Practicing its skills and having fun? 

The hawks seem to be doing the same thing. They are in fine condition with enough prey in the area, So this is practice.

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