Killer in the Garden

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Earlier Today In The Garden

Having mowed the lawn and cut the edges (a job I hate) I was admiring my work when this magnificent creature flew into the garden.

The Sparrowhawk as well as being a handsome bird is a ruthless killer and designed to hunt expertly from the air.  It tracks at great speed, darting out of cover with extreme dexterity combined with deadly accuracy to kill its prey.   It doesn’t hover, like the Kestrel or the Hawk, but relies on pace, momentum and surprise to catch its food and for this it is well designed with long slim legs, large sharp talons and a very efficient hooked beak that it uses for piercing and tearing up its prey.

The male Sparrowhawk was formerly called a musket, and the gun was named after the bird which perhaps gives a clue as to just how deadly they can be.  They are expert hunters and very fast fliers, and often make quick dashes over hedgerows or along the ground when chasing prey, which is often spectacularly captured using a downward plummet from the sky with closed wings.  The pairs work well together as a team and to avoid competition between the two sexes, males concentrate on smaller birds, such as sparrows and tits, and females hunt larger birds including collared doves, thrushes and starlings.  The bird in my garden was a female.

Each adult Sparrowhawk will kill and consume a couple of small birds a day for themselves and when they are breeding  a pair needs to catch another ten or so just to feed the chicks.  According to the RSPB there are forty thousand breeding pairs in the United Kingdom so by my calculation that is twenty thousand nests with an average of three chicks each so to feed themselves and their offspring this means three hundred thousand murders a day.

Later in the afternoon I found the remains of an unfortunate collared dove.

As Thomas Hobbes said in his philosophical treatise, Leviathan: ‘Life (in the state of nature) is nasty, brutish and short”.

30 responses to “Killer in the Garden

  1. We need one to get rid of the Indian Mynahs in our backyard, Andrew. A lucky find for you!

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  2. I’m glad I don’t live in nature and am not a bird. It’s hard enough living as a human these days. 🙂

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  3. The bird looks massive Andrew! It looks big enough to take care of a wandering cat!

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  4. You lucky so-and-so. All I ever seem to get in my garden are wood pidgeons. They’ve chased away everything else..

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  5. That’s a large number of kills when you put it that way. Nice capture. Glad you used a camera instead of your talons. 😉

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  6. That is a gorgeous creature. I thought Hobbs said that about human life in the middle ages. I don’t care which, I am enraptured by your amazing visitor! Nature is almost as nasty and brutish as humans at times anyway.

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  7. Beautiful bird. I would love to see it on the hunt. We have red tailed hawks ear our house and one buzzed me once. It was scary and very cool at the same time.

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  8. Hm… you mow the lawn and cut the edges with a photo camera in a pocket, don’t you?

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  9. Never knew about the ‘musket’… We often lose chicks up to 2-3 months old from birds of prey which live in the mountains all around here. They are fearsome creatures all right – I ‘rescued’ a small owl from our chimney one year and lost a small chunk of my finger in the process 🙂

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  10. Looks like she could have carried you off from the size of her, Andrew, and she was obviously looking at you at the time you took the photo. Maybe you were on the menu?

    I’ve seem them in the countryside but never in the town. Those eyes remind me of an owl’s eyes.

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  11. Wow, what a treat. I saw a Blue Jay in my backyard yesterday and was exciting. 🙂

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  12. It’s gorgeous! I love raptors.

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