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Birds of Prey

Hovering KestrelThe Kestrel is the classic UK 'hovering' bird. Frequently seen over unmaintained land such as boarders of motorways and major roads, this bird hunts such things as mice and voles. When really hungry worms will do!

Actually kestrels can't quite hover - they need a slight breeze into which they always face. While hanging in the air their heads stay amazingly still while their bodies swing about compensating for their wingbeats and wind variations. From video shots we estimate that the eyes move no more than a few millimetres over periods of seconds. How they accomplish their positional reference we can only guess.

Unfortunately the increase in jackdaws mean we see this bird less than when we first moved here - the jackdaws see them off. The most common time we see them is while mowing the paths - people on mowers seems to be 'not humans' and presumably the disturbance flushes out potential meals.

Sparrowhawk with killSparrowhawks are one of the other more common UK raptors. They do not hover, but circle around looking for prey, or perch in suitable places and wait to pounce. 'Ours' has made several kills of various tits by lurking near our bird tables.

In this picture the bird has just pounced on a sparrow and is waiting for those talons to do their job so he can carry off his lunch. The beaks look fearsome but it is the talons that do the killing, and the beak that is the cutlery.

Like all predators, raptor (bird of prey) numbers are always a tiny fraction of the number of prey animals available. We don't begrudge the raptors the small percentage of birds they take. What we DO begrudge is animals lost to those subsidised carnivores (cats) who by mankinds artificial support exist in far too large a number and create serious losses to small birds.

SparrowHawk on PostThe sparrowhawk regularly goes for our Tits on the nut-feeders. Since surprise is everything, this fellow sitting on top of the stick that support a hanging feeder isn't going to catch one. This one visited the post twice in one day and then wasn't seen there again for days.