Is this a sparrowhawk?

Photo:A sparrowhawk?

A sparrowhawk?

Photo by Hugo Butterworth

Seen in Tidy Street

By Hugo Butterworth, North Laine resident

On 16th October (2012) we spotted what I think is a sparrowhawk in our little garden (see photo). I don't think we get many of these in North Laine…..

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 219, November/December 2012]

This page was added on 18/12/2012.

We were interested to read this and to learn that Hugo had spotted what he thought was a sparrowhawk in his little garden in North Laine.

We were particularly interested because of the question of how seagulls, with which we're plagued in Brighton, will view the arrival of these birds. Some very large gulls have been filmed being brought down by a falconer’s sparrowhawk. They're also used by falconers to frighten gulls at landfill and other sites. With no controls, the gulls can number thousands, but once hawks patrol, then the numbers often drop to just a few dozen. It's unusual for hawks to bring down seagulls, though individual cases have been recorded. They've been known to bring down birds as large as geese, several times their own weight, but this tends to be in the wild when they're hunting for food, possibly during the breeding season.

For any bird lovers reading this, you'll be reassured to know that it's unusual for them to hunt small birds and sparrows are an almost unknown prey, in spite of their name. There are also reports of hawks scaring parrots, crows and other birds and they'll stop pigeons, swallows and seagulls from roosting on boats, sheds, verandahs and roofs. The problem for us, when it comes to seagulls, is that they are, frankly, filthy. They pick up salmonella from waste tips and spread it wherever they go, making them a health hazard, especially in town, where they ‘bomb’ the unsuspecting public with their excrement.

When hawks take up station on rooftops, the initial reaction of gulls is to ‘buzz’ the hawks, but if these stand their ground or indeed take off, the gulls will usually retreat to the beach.

So it seems to us that having hawks around can only be a good thing. For no reason we can understand, herring gulls are a protected species. But the sparrowhawk doesn’t know that, and if we get a few more of these beautiful birds and they just manage to frighten the seagulls, we won't complain!

By Anne Johnson & Louis Blache
On 01/02/2013

It certainly looks like a sparrowhawk. Since we moved to Seaford we're more used to seeing them in our suburban garden where, I'm afraid, they do take small birds, including sparrows. But it's worth noting that although there are lots of them in Brighton, herring gulls generally are in decline. I used to enjoy watching them nest on our roofs.

By Anne Fletcher, former resident of Over Street
On 08/02/2013

I saw a sparrowhawk a few years ago catching a blackbird in Pavilion Gardens and wrote to The Argus at the time as I too was surprised to see one in central Brighton. So they are about and if you keep your eyes peeled you may be fortunate enough to see one too.

By Graham Durey
On 08/02/2013

Further to the above comments about sightings of sparrowhawks in central Brighton. I have some photos of a sparrowhawk eating its prey, a pigeon, taken in my North Laine garden in May 2009.

By Zerrin Hodgkins
On 07/04/2013

I have never seen sparrowhawks take a sparrow but in our garden in Hove I have seen them take small birds such as bluetits, thrushes and even a great spotted woodpecker. I've seen two hunt and corner a blackbird and even try with a pigeon. They have been around for years in Hove. They hurtle through the trees and bushes at an incredible speed and will seem to take most small birds. I feel they are responsible for the disappearance of many small birds from our gardens since they moved into this area, so Anne and Louis’ comment above was incorrect in one aspect in that they do take small birds constantly.

By Russell Tite
On 07/04/2013

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