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Sparrowhawk decimates bird population

I fully sympathise with anyone who suffers from sparrowhawks. I get very angry at the comment that it is an indication of a "healthy bird population." Up until about 2 months ago we would see a sparrowhawk briefly about once a month.  I do not deny that it is an impressive sight.  However, the sparrowhawk then started visiting on a daily basis, on some days up to 5 times. We used to be the envy of our friends and neighbours as our garden was a haven for all types of birds.  At times we would have up to 30 birds feeding in the garden, gold finches, blue tits, great tits, green finches, wrens, robins, willow tits, blackbirds, thrushes, and so the list goes on. I used to spend at least £30 a month on bird food. However, once the sparrowhawk made his regular "food collection" visits to our garden, the bird population was decimated.  We have lived in our house for 28 years and this is the first time that we have not had a "healthy bird population". It would be truer to say that the constant presence of a sparrowhawk is a signal that the local bird population is about to be wiped out. We haven't seen a sparrowhawk for over a week now.  But then that is not surprising because there are no birds! Can't remember when I last bought bird food. What an extremely sad situation.
  • hi Jan

        I sympathise with you for not understanding nature.

        I have sparrowhawks visiting but still get plenty of birds.

       anyone feeding birds must expect a healthy bird population will attract preditors, it's nature.

         Ray

          

             a good laugh is better than a tonic

  • Hi Jan, 

    sorry to hear about your bird situation, but the Sparrowhawk has to eat too and your garden must have looked to it as good as it looked to the Blue Tits when they saw your food (i.e a plentiful supply).

    You may just find the birds have dispersed while there's threat - the Sparrowhawk would be visiting so often because there were so many birds - I'd imagine now that the birds have gone so will the Sparrowhawk.

    I wouldn't see having a Sparrowhawk as suffering, they're a magnificent creature (and unlike cats for example, kill to survive).

    How long has your garden been quiet?  When the local female Sparrowhawk was visiting here it did go quiet, but once she'd moved on (although she's back around now) the birds started to come back within a week or so.

  • In reply to Paul E:

    Hi jan,

    Sorry to hear that your birds have disappeared but this is just a part of nature - sparrowhawks are natural predators and it won't have caught all the birds.  What has happened is your garden has became a high-risk area and many birds will have gone elsewhere to feed, give it a while and they will come back and probably move every few weeks or so to stay ahead of the hawk.  It is normal for birds to move around areas to feed rather than stay in one place - this helps reduce the risk from predators as by staying constantly on the move the predator doesn't know where they will be.  When it comes to bird feeding stations this doesn't happen, the birds tend to congregate in one place - it's like a watering hole in Africa only in miniature the only difference is the birds can usually go elsewhere to feed whereas in Africa they prey have to go to the watering hole to drink.

    There are ways that you can help your garden birds by building up the cover available in your garden (dense, spiky bushes are best) and, provided cats aren't an issue, feeding closer to suitable cover.  Other things you can do is try to attract larger birds to your garden such as jackdaws as I did find that when the larger birds appeared a lot of the smaller birds would join them, often within minutes of the jackdaws arriving and when they left so too did most of the others!  The jackdaws had a habit of seeing off the local cats and were very capable of mobbing any predators.

    Hope you birds return soon,

    Kat

    Millie & Fly the Border Collies

  • Hi Jan, Welcome to the forum.

    Sorry that your view on one of the UK most magnificent birds of prey is negative.

    This persecuted bird of prey was nearly wiped out in the 60' and 70's.

    My personal opinion is one of awe, not one of suffering of such a magnificent bird.

    Just to give you some information regarding kills that Sparrowhawks make.

    The female Sparrowhawk is larger than the male and generally takes larger prey: doves, pigeons etc so she doesn't waste energy hunting smaller prey. A pigeon or dove will be surfice to last her three days before she needs to make another kill.

    The male Sparrowhawk hunts smaller prey upto the size of a Blackbird or Thrush and again a bird of this size would be surfice for two to three days.

    During the breeding season the male Sparrowhawk not only has to provide food for his offspring but also the female and may need to make on average 10 kills per day.

    Dr Ian Newton's book 'The Sparrowhawk':- gives an accurate account.

    The average food consumption has been measured at around 40 to 50 grams (1.4 to 1.8 ounces) per day for males and 50 - 70 grams 1.8 to 2.5 ounces) per day for the larger females, depending partly on their activity.

    The number of carcases needed to provide this ration varies with their size, but it is the equivalent to about two and three sparrows per day respectively for each sex.

    Over a whole year total food intake amounts to around 16.5 kg (36 pounds) of meat for a male and 22 kg (48 pounds) for a female.

    Added to the needs of breeding, a successful Sparowhawk pair could account for 55 kg (121 pounds) of meat in a year. This is equivalent to about 2200 House Sparrows, or 600 Blackbirds, or 110 Wood Pigeons.

    I like many other members on the forum have Sparrowhawks who visit their gardens on a daily / weekly basis.

    I have always had the opinion that they visit due to a healthy food chain, most predators will not use un-necessary energy in search of their food.

    The possibility of a Sparrowhawk wiping out your whole bird population is virtually nill!

    They have a kill success rate of 10-50%.

    Their survival rates are not very good neither Juvenile Survival: 0.340 (in First-Year)  Typical Lifespan: 4 years

    I would also suggest that the reason you have no birds visiting is due to you not feeding them!!

    I'm sure you can tell in my response to your post that I'm very pasionate about birds of prey in particular, they have had nothing but bad press for decades.

    I have also pointed out many times on this forum that the Domestic Cat is the biggest killer of birds and mammals. Annually killing 200 million mammals and 50 million birds in the UK alone.

    My Regards Buzzard

    Nature Is Amazing - Let Us Keep It That Way

  • Hi Jan

    Welcome to the forum from me. :-)

    I'm sorry that your visiting wild birds have been so badly affected by sparrowhawks, but I agree with Buzzard, the sparrowhawk is an awe-inspiring bird and one that I would like to see occasionally in my garden.

    Nature isn't always the way we would like it to be. The more people feed wild birds in their gardens, the more sparrowhawks will learn that this is a good place to hunt.

    The only thing you could do is to provide plenty of cover and lot's of different feeding places for your wild birds so that they can feed safely and also see what's coming.

    Best wishes Chris

    Click Here to see my photos

  • Hi Jan, and welcome from me.

    I'm sorry you have lost all your birds, and can understand you must feel upset, but I do agree with the others, and Buzzard makes some very good points. There have been some good suggestions - more dense cover and attract some bigger birds. Also try to have several different feeding areas. My sparrowhawk pair visit regularly, but my birds come back within 10 minutes. I have witnessed very few kills. Most of their attacks are fruitless.

    I hope things improve for you.

    Cheers, Linda.

    See my photos on Flickr

  • In reply to Sparrow:

    Hi Jan and wecome to the RSPB Community.

    I unreservedly endorse comments made above. If your local songbird population is permanently denuded then you need to be looking at factors other than natural predation for the cause. My garden bird community does fine (I'm particularly happy about the Bullfinches) even though we have a resident Sparrowhawk pair.

    People feed garden birds for all sorts of reasons. For many it's about wildlife conservation and encouraging biodiversity, for others its about having a bit of pretty colour and movement in the garden, for some it's about acquiring some low maintenance pets which sometimes get given names.  There's nothing wrong with any of those motivations

    If your thing is wildlife conservation than the Sparrowhawk should be a welcome visitor and a source of satisfaction. If it isn't then some degree of  antipathy to them is kind of understandable, but you may find that aversion to natural predators that have evolved over millennia alongside their prey species attracts a level of , shall we say, spirited debate round here (not that there's anything wrong with that either).

    JBNTS

    Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • In reply to John B (not the sloop):

    John B (not the sloop) said:
    you may find that aversion to natural predators that have evolved over millennia alongside their prey species attracts a level of , shall we say, spirited debate round here (not that there's anything wrong with that either).

    Hi JBNTS

    Indeed it does. :-))

    Best wishes Chris

    Click Here to see my photos

  • In reply to Woodpecker:

    Hi Jan,

    Welcome from me too.  I am sorry to hear about your bird situation and I realise how sad you must feel but I agree with what has already been said on here.  I am sure the birds will start to return when they feel less threatened.  Perhaps you could try putting out some more food to trempt them back?

    As well as providing more cover in the way of trees and shrubs have you thought about protecting the feeding area with a santuary or guardian like those available in the RSPB shop?

    http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/p/BirdAccessories/Adjustable_ground_feeding_sanctuary.htm

    http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/p/BirdAccessories/Bird_feeder_guardians.htm

    I hope the birds return soon.

    Best wishes,

    SB

    There is something new to learn everyday...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/skylark58/

  • That post sounds almost identical to a relative's story, who found birds disappearing. They too saw a sparrowhawk. I think the difference though, is that they also drew a parallel with the timing of new neighbours over the road, who happened to have two streamlined felines that spent seemingly 20 hours a day in the relatives garden. Did you replace a cat recently, or have neighbours move in? Those are plausible explanations, as are ones others have already referred to. Your conclusion doesn't match the evidence in my opinion. Just worth adding, the sparrowhawk also seemed to disappear, yet the small birds continued to demise. Cheers Rob.