London (change)
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16/06/2012 at 13:39

We have a problem with a sparrowhawk, think it's a female and it's taking quite a few birds from our garden from the feeders and even the bird table , the latest being a blackbird which it grabbed from the birdtable. I went outside to try and chase it off and it just sat there covering the blackbird glowering at me !  It did eventually let it go with me hopping round the garden after it and the blackbird flew away hopefully not too badly hurt but the sparrowhawk hung around for ages. It's also snatched a starling from the bird table and is now weighing up the tits and finches that feed from the fatballs in our tree.

My options are :

A. Stop feeding the birds but we have been doing so for years so worried about upsetting balance of nature. or,

B. Let nature take it's course and let it have it's take away. Spoke to a guy from the r.s.p.b. who told me our garden will be in the sparrowhawk's flight path so think it's here to stay.

Any other ideas , please.

16/06/2012 at 13:49

I had this problem, too, so I do sympathise.

I can't give you a solution, but I moved the feeders to a less open area so the sparrowhawk had to go crashing through bushes to get anything and decreased the amount of food being put out. I also chased the sparrowhawk whenever I saw it, spraying it from a hose whenever possible. It eventually stopped turning up, although whether that was because I'd chased it off or because it died I have no idea.

16/06/2012 at 13:51

It depends on exactly where the feeders are situated. I have mine beneath a pergola. At one point I laid mesh over the top, and down one side. It's relatively protected on the other side by bushes, that the birds use as a staging post before venturing onto the feeders. I haven't had any trouble for a long time, and have in fact removed most of the mesh.

If it's an isolated bird table in the middle of a garden, and in an open postition, I'd consider moving it to a more sheltered location.

16/06/2012 at 13:52
jean riley wrote (see)

A. Stop feeding the birds but we have been doing so for years so worried about upsetting balance of nature. or,

B. Let nature take it's course and let it have it's take away. Spoke to a guy from the r.s.p.b. who told me our garden will be in the sparrowhawk's flight path so think it's here to stay.

Any other ideas , please.

There's no nice way to do this, you are upsetting the balance of nature by feeding the birds in the first place. I've swapped my bird tables for nesting boxes and organic gardening so I can still enjoy the wildlife without too much interfering. Perhaps, phase out the feeding after the breeding season?

16/06/2012 at 14:08

Any act of gardening 'disturbs' the balance of nature. Nature would like my garden to be entirely brambles and nettles, etc. Interference is 'necessary', I suppose.

16/06/2012 at 14:12

Don't really want to stop feeding them as the r.s.p.b. chap says it's a good help during the breeding season and in winter when food is scarce . No bread for them ! They get ''proper food'' i.e. seeds, fruit, mealworms e.t.c. I like to think I'm helping out but may take your advice and stop feeding end of July. The birdtable is quite sheltered and sitting on patio I think we have built up a trust with some of our feathered friends as they take food from it even when we are sitting out and all the feeders are in trees and shrubs so nothing is really in the open. To be honest , think my yellow legged friend couldn't give a monkeys where they are placed as long as he gets a meal.

16/06/2012 at 14:12

Just enjoy watching the sparrowhawk doing its thing. It no doubt has young chicks to feed so why interupt it. Its just natures feeding pyramid and should be celebrated.

16/06/2012 at 14:18

One thing - you may find that its activity drops off after its chicks are fledged, as it simply won't need that much food. As for not feeding after July - the RSPB recommends that you feed all year round. f you stop feeding at that time, young birds will be short of food, whilst others, such as the endangered sparrow, are still breeding.

16/06/2012 at 14:51

The act of gardening is a relationship between ourselves and nature. Gardening is not simply the passive observance of nature.

In our gardens we make decisions. We decide to get rid of brambles and plant roses. We nurture certain plants and look after them.

In just the same way as we select plants, we are entitled to have some say about which birds use our gardens.

I want tits, finches and robins in my garden. I don't want sparrowhawks, pigeons, magpies and jays. I reserve the right to evict anyone from my garden at my discretion.

16/06/2012 at 15:10
Gary Hobson wrote (see)

I want tits, finches and robins in my garden. I don't want sparrowhawks, pigeons, magpies and jays. I reserve the right to evict anyone from my garden at my discretion.

You do inded have that right. But I dont think you should prevent any bird from entering your garden. But then who am I to talk, as I 'evict' grey squirrels from my garden whenever I see one.

16/06/2012 at 15:27

Good luck with the eviction programme.

I have feeders all over my garden  and I get the occasionsal sparrwohawk visiting but they rarely catch anything because my main feeders are all grouped together near a contorted hazel and other shrubs which provide easy cover.  The fact that so many small birds visit means there are plenty waiting their turn and who raise the alarm.  Any bird that is caught is either old or sick or too stupid to be passing o genes to a next generation and psarrowhawks and other raptors are beautiful and need to eat too..

Recently we've had magpies, crows and jackdaws visiting too but they stick mostly to the ground food and don't disturb the smaller ones on the feeders or faze the chaffinches, robins and blackbirds.

16/06/2012 at 16:41


Decision made , I'm not going to stop feeding them - just hope I'm out when he / she snaffles the next one ! I was laughing over the ''eviction'' - don't really want to evict anything from my garden (except the slugs !!! ) Love watching everything - here's some photos of the sparrowhawk - excuse quality they were taken from behind a window in conservatory.

Can't - file too big changed profile pic !

16/06/2012 at 20:57
We get the odd sparrowhawk in our garden. Have yet to see it take a small bird only doves and wood pigeons. It is such a beautiful bird and like you say Obelixx, it has to feed too. I dont like to see it but thats the circle of life as my young grandaughter told me.
20/06/2012 at 12:57

Perhaps a sign would help with the eviction!

I have hawks here at most times of the year, although it tends to be the males that hunt the smaller birds at my feeding stations. They do indeed have a role to perform in ensuring the fitness of bird populations and a study recently showed that they are vital in protecting songbird nests.

Basically, small birds nesting within the hawk's territory are protected from corvids and don't become a menu choice until later in the year when the chicks fledge and need plenty of prey nearby. In this way the songbirds raise a brood or two with lower predation pressure. As the male does most of the hunting in the early days, smaller birds are targets but once the young are old enough to be left by the female she'll target pigeons and doves that last the family a bit longer. 

In previous gardens I've used trellis to limit flight paths and enable small birds to escape but here I do nothing and enjoy the balance. Hawks don't catch much and last winter a one-eyed brambling was a regular for three weeks, despite two male hawks hunting the feeders. She disappeared with the other migrants.

20/06/2012 at 13:31

We have a rule.... all birds fed equally and whilst it's a bit upsetting when ours takes out a smaller bird as you say they've got to eat too. I find it totally acceptable for the sparrowhawk to use our garden as a pantry, and I live in the hope that one day she might end up scrapping with next doors cats who take the birds for fun and just play with them.

the much beloveds dad moves his feeders around quite a bit in the hope that the sparrowhawk he has visiting gets a bit confused and never can assume the same flight path through the garden. it doesn't work completely but it has reduced the casualties.

20/06/2012 at 15:21

i have a pair that visit my garden all the time.. the one in my avatar it is.. and i dont is nature and they often take sparrows..but so do cats.. and to be honest they do prefer blackbirds..

had one yesterday nearly hit my kitchen window while chasing a sparrow..he had hid in the tree and awaited their feeding time.. thye getting clever.. but i ahve to let nature do its thing.. i cant feed some birds and not others.. they are all nature.. i have raverns come in to my garden and pick up the scraps let over.. they are big and brutish but they are nature...

i have seagulls nesting on my flat roof.. blooming noisy at 3am in the morning.. but they are nature and they keep the cats and rooks away... so good. and he comes and taps on my french doors when he hungry.. thou trying to se him perch on my window sill is funny and he is far to big..

if you are going to help nature along then you have to help all of it...


20/06/2012 at 16:15

I have a sparrowhawk too, who has taken four baby starlings from my garden this year.  I put mealworms on the ground and s/he just swoops down and catches them.  I had the sparrowhawk last year too, but it stopped visiting around the end of June and I figured that it had successfully fed it's babies until they fledged and then no longer needed the food.  Perhaps it was also the fact that older birds are quicker and it lost interest when it couldn't catch anything any more!  It's an incredible noise that all of the small birds make when the sparrowhawk approaches - definitely a step up in urgency compared to their normal alarm calls.  Whenever I hear it, I get the camera out...

21/06/2012 at 13:26

Wow, very impressed with all the knowledge about the sparrowhawk - learnt a lot about how it predates other birds and  I know its just it s nature so will leave things as they are Will not serve any eviction notice on it - however , if it gets the nuthatches I will personally pack its bags !! They ve only just made an appearance this year and only ever appear together - love watching them scuttle headfirst down the trellis . Love to get some photos but they are just so quick ! Are these visitors or are they present all year round ?

21/06/2012 at 18:54

I recall the RSPB saying that if you have sparrowhawks, it is a sign of a healthy bird population - so feeding the birds encourages the avian diversity.

btw nuthatches are wonderful to watch.  In my previous garden we used to see them on next-door's hazel bushes (well, overgrown hedge really!).  They are resident in England, as far north, I believe, as the Mersey, and are (were?) rare in Scotland. That's what my bird book (and my Twitcher-neighbour) says, anyway.

21/06/2012 at 19:29
Had a sparrowhawk in the garden today but it left empty taloned !
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