Friday, 1 August 2014

False alarm and a swift web cam that's still active

A call from the cathedral today suggested that a dead bird of prey brought into the shop/cafe was one of the peregrines.
Someone had actually seen the bird in question fly into a window not far from the cathedral while chasing a pigeon or some other prey. It died instantaneously, breaking its neck.
When I arrived in town I checked the cathedral tower and Jurys Inn first. Both adults and two juveniles were present but I couldn't see a third juvenile.
When I got over to the cathedral centre and opened the box, there inside was a juvenile male sparrow hawk, a tiny bird compared to a peregrine.
Sparrowhawk corpse and foot ruler
The bird was in perfect condition, its eyes still open showing a narrow pale yellow edge to the iris and a black centre (adults have fiery yellow eyes distinguishing them immediately from peregrines eyes which are black at all ages).
The colouraton isn't blood!
The corpse will be sent off for analysis to see what pollutants it may have - though the results won't come back for many months.
Every year we get many calls from people who think they have had a peregrine in their garden. They always (well, just about always) turn out to be sparrowhawks.
Incidentally, female sparrowhawks, like female peregrines, are much bigger than males - up to 25% bigger. This size difference probably allows the pair to occupy the same territory without competing for food but hunting a wider prey spectrum than they would do if they were the same size.
Swifts are superb aerial birds and nest all over Derbyshire and the UK. Sadly they are in steep decline. Part of the reason for this is that people accidentally exclude them from the roofs in which they nest when they have the house renovated, re-roofed or have new soffits and gutters.
A new Project aims to help swifts and engage with people, making them more aware of this excellent bird and its fascinating life.
To see chicks still in nests in Oxford .
If you are interested in learning more about the project and especially if you live in the county, please contact .
A wonderful website about swifts, run by Swift Conservation, can be found at

Nick B (DWT)


Lorraine said...

How interesting and at first glance I can see how sparrow hawks can be mistaken for peregrines. I'm glad that the bird in question didn't suffer after it's fateful collision. Perhaps it was a juvenile itself and hadn't yet learnt about the perils of reflective glass whilst hunting in an Urban environment.

At my family home, we have tried to fashion a visual barrier ( dangling sections of bead curtain and the like ) up against the large french windows, and this seems to have halted the occasional collision of some of our back garden birds. In fact we haven't had any casualties at all this summer as a result. You can also buy reels of adhesive lead and apply a DIY diamond leaded effect to any problematic windows that will also help in domestic situations.

One of our juveniles is presently on the scrape and there is also some remains of a pigeon within.

Hilary. B'ham said...

Thank you for the interesting article about the Sparrow Hawk. We get one occasionally in our garden and the evidence they leave behind when they make a kill is quite compelling...a pile of feathers in one place. Glad to see our three Derby juveniles are doing well.

Sue Peregrino said...

Poor sparrowhawk, I was sorry to see it had come to grief! We have a predator sparrowhawk that visits our garden in winter. They are clever birds and learn which gardens have bird feeding stations. I often hear people say "I have a peregrine that comes to my garden and sits on the fence" but this is incredibly unlikely, peregrines aren't garden birds. I feel very privileged to have the sparrowhawk even if sadly sometimes one of my much loved little birds ends up as lunch. As Hilary says, a lot of feathers are left behind - which I use to add to my feather collection - I picked up some particularly fine goldfinch feather that way.
I'm also a swift-aholic and have followed Nick's swift adventures. I put a box up in late 2011 and with a huge amount of attraction activities, my box was used by swifts for the first time this year, an achievement I'm jolly proud about. As I write (9th August) there are still very noisy swiftlets on the Oxford webcam which seems very late to me?
I'm also proud to say that I'm off tomorrow for the Hen Harrier Day in the Peak that was mentioned on this blog a while ago. I'm really looking forward to that too. Look out for a blitz of social media activity plus perhaps even some coverage on the telly.
Looking again at Lorraine's entry, for home use, people like the RSPB (probably the Wildlife Trusts too) sell bird shaped decorative stickers that go onto window glass to guard against bird strike.

Anonymous said...

Up and ready to go for Hen Harrier day. No rain yet but the sky looks very threatening think we are going to get a little wet !!Hoping to see a lot of people attend such a good cause. We have over the years spent a lot of time with the peregrines (although like many people we do not blog much)seen the joy that learning about them and watching them brings. It is such a loss that we are not treated to seeing more of these equally fantastic birds. I therefore (come rain or shine) will be adding my voice to the campaign!!!
Chris M