Bird of Prey in Suburbia

I live some 15 mins from Birmingham Airport with a postage stamp for a back garden.  Yesterday I came home to find a dead wood pigeon (minus its head) lying on the lawn.  Initially I thought it was the work of cats but on looking out the window later I saw a Kestrel (?) tucking into it.  It fed on it for about 15 minutes and only flew off when it was disturbed by neighbouring children. 

Our garden is totally fenced off and we have some tall trees next door and at the back so I was surprised to see this bird of prey on my lawn as I always thought they preferred open areas to hunt and feed.

is this a common occurrence?



  • Hello,

    The most likely culprit is a Sparrowhawk - this raptor is now common even in quite built-up areas and is a frequent garden visitor. A female could tackle a Woodpigeon - males are smaller and take smaller prey accordingly.

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  • Hi Rachel and welcome to RSPB Community

    Not a Kestrel I'd have thought. These are predators of open grassland/farmland and tend to stick to voles, invertebrates, and occasionally birds up to House Sparrow size.

    Your visitor was almost certainly a Sparrowhawk, very probably female as a Wood Pigeon is a big ask for the smaller male. Sparrowhawks are woodland birds that are adapting readily to a suburban lifestyle with all the rewards it can bring. Bird brains are apparently delicious and nutritious to avian predators so your lady Sparrowhawk clearly decided to go for the good stuff first.

    All perfectly natural and having a top predator in your garden is a fair indication that your local environment is in reasonably good health.


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

  • In reply to aiki:

    Aiki's beaten me to it again - female sparrowhawk most likely culprit.

    Occasionally a kestrel will take a small bird if it can (on the ground), but it would have to be pretty hungry because it's harder work than its usual diet (small mammals, beetles etc).

    I actually saw a kestrel drop in after a bird in the back garden of my previous home. Yes, it definitely was a kestrel! There was a large cloud of dust as the flock scattered, pronto!



    Seriously thinking about trying harder!

  • Hi Rachel welcome to the forum.

    A Kestrel would be quite unlikely to be in a suburban garden. I would also be very surprised that it would have killed a Wood Pigeon!

    However a Female Sparrowhawk could, Kestrels will take small birds sparrows, finches etc but thier main diet is voles, mice, beetles, earth worms etc. I have never heard of them eating carrion so again this would rule them out.

    Have you correctly identified the kill, even a Female Sparrowhawk may struggle with a Woodpigeon.  They will take feral pigeons, stock doves, collared doves etc. The male Sparrowhawk is quite small only 11" he will take birds upto the size of a thrush.

    Anyway I hope I have helped, if the BOP returns try and get a photo.

    Regards Buzzard

    Nature Is Amazing - Let Us Keep It That Way

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

    Thanks everyone!  Yes, have checked out description of a sparrowhawk and it seems to fit.    We seem to have an endless supply of pigeons hereabouts so hopefully the Sparrowhawk will stay around.  I wonder if they are partial to gulls...?


  • In reply to Rachel:

    Hi Rachel,

    Although in this case it was more likely a sparrowhawk, don't discount seeing a kestrel just because you're in suburbia. Keep your eyes peeled - I was living in SE London suburbs when that story of mine took place. Although I believe kestrel numbers are in decline again, they try to make a living almost anywhere.

    Happy birding!


    Seriously thinking about trying harder!

  • In reply to Rachel:

    Hi Rachel

    A sparrowhawk is one of the best birds to keep the pigeons at bay, The only problem being the also keep every other small bird out of sight.


  • In reply to Jackdaw:

    Kestrels can't be that unusual in suburban gardens - we had a pair years ago that used to hunt in the suburbs until the sparrowhawks moved in, then they stayed out in the open school fields and around nearby farm fields/meadows.  Used to see them every afternoon hovering over the gardens.

    However, I agree that if a BoP killed the pigeon it is most likely to have been a sparrowhawk, pigeons are a bit too big for a kestrel to tackle.

    Millie & Fly the Border Collies

  • Hi Everyone
    I have come across this thread when looking for something else about kestrels but having read the posts feel compelled to share observations. I witnessed a kestrel killing a pigeon (well strictly a dove) in our front garden. It was definitely a kestrel. I don't think there is any way you could mistake a sparrowhawk for a kestrel especially not when they're on the ground. And added to that we are very familiar with them as they live in the church tower behind our house, while the doves live on the farm across the road.