Friday 29 January 2016

A Sparrowhawk Feeds

Sparrowhawks have occasionally raided our bird feeders for many years. Usually all we see is a blur of wings as the hawk suddenly flashes round the corner of the house, scattering the feeding birds, then disappears. Often we can't even tell if it's made a kill. Sometimes when it hasn't succeeded a young sparrowhawk will sit atop a feeder looking round, as if wondering where its prey has gone. What we've never seen before is a sparrowhawk feeding. The most we've seen is one flying off with a small bird in its talons. Sometimes a scattering of feathers lies on the ground afterwards.

Yesterday was different. We didn't see the kill. The sparrowhawk, which has been seen a few times in recent days, was first spotted on a low mossy boulder close to the feeders and the house with a small bird - a coal tit I think - in its talons. For a few minutes we watched as it fed voraciously, tearing off feathers and demolishing the bird extremely quickly. Virtually nothing was left afterwards, just a few tiny fluffy feathers. Once there was nothing more to eat the sparrowhawk moved to another rock where it cleaned its beak and then looked round as if searching for more prey before flying off.

Watching the hawk feed was a great privilege. I was surprised that it fed out in the open and close to the house. Photographing it was difficult. A low sun was shining straight towards the house and there was too much glare to take decent pictures from a low viewpoint so I ended up shooting downwards from my upstairs study window, pressing the lens against the glass for stability. The sparrowhawk was moving most of the time, pecking away at its prey, so taking shots without too much blur was difficult. Every so often it would raise its head to look around and for a fraction of a second it was still. That was the time to take a photograph.


  1. Actually Chris, they can be quite oblivious of people when feeding. Last September one killed a pigeon in the middle of Higher Moor campsite at Crantock. Folk were walking past within 15 metres of it, or taking pictures of it from close by. It only flew away after it finished feeding. There's a picture of it in my blog dated September 13th, 2015. And yes, I know what you mean when you say it was a great privilege watching it. Cheers!

  2. I'm not sentimental about nature; mainly because nature itself is generally not sentimental - just pragmatic!

    That said, I'm glad the sparrowhawk's kill wasn't a crested tit, even if that seems a bit harsh on the coalies. We get a couple of week's in the year to look for cresties; I expect you see rather more of them, Chris.