menscryfa's picture

What did this?

Observed: 2nd January 2011 By: menscryfa
S159 Neighbourhood Nature - course complete

Signs of a very fresh kill, think it may be a regular site used by a sparrowhawk judging by the markings made on the tree stump. It was hard to tell what bird the feathers were from, they were creamy white. Any help much appreciated to solve this mystery.

    Likely ID
    Sparrowhawk kill of a white pigeon
    Confidence: It's likely to be this, but I can't be certain.
Species interactions

No interactions present.


Syrphus's picture

I would guess a Sparrowhawk

I would guess a Sparrowhawk has had a white racing pigeon for a New Year feast. I don't expect that can be proved from the picture, though.



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on

anonymous spotter's picture

Racing pigeon sounds good -

I suppose there's a chance it was a leucistic something-or-other: as Syrphus says, we'll probably never know for sure.

menscryfa's picture

Sparrowhawk kill

Many thanks thats really helpful, I will be visiting this area again soon so will have a look at the stump to see if it has been used again for dining on !

Tracy Irwin

lordro's picture

Hawk kills

I have heard that a rough guide is that if the points of the quills are intact the victim was probably plucked after death: i. e. it was a Sparrow hawk, peregrine or suchlike. If the quills are broken and crunched the kill was probably by a mammal such as a fox or a cat. Is there any truth to this?

anonymous spotter's picture

Conflicting tales!

I was told the opposite some years ago: that some raptors "snipped off" the feathers, leaving the points behind.
I've since been told the opposite - that raptors pull them out as you suggest - on this site.
My own observations of sparrowhawk kill remains agrees with the latter, but I don't know if it holds for all raptors.

the naturalist man's picture

Plucking and biting

You were right first time, birds of prey pluck and mammals bite. Even if you are not 'lucky' (is that the right word!) enough to watch a predator de-feathering a bird common sense says it must be that way round - teeth bite.

I've watched sparrowhawk and they have a strange way of plucking; firstly they pluck whist the bird is still alive and they pluck in a systematic way leaving a neat circle of feathers. They also tend to pluck on the ground.

This is a messy kill with the bird being plucked on a raised perch; another argument against it being a mammal kill - messy, definitely but not on a perch.

I presume these feathers were fairly long, i.e. from a bigish bird. As I know of no goshawks in Doncaster I can only think it is an unusually messy sparrowhawk or a buzzard. There is blood on the feathers and as buzzard are generally too lazy to kill for themselves - especially a bird - it only leaves sparrowhawk but it is an unusual kill site. The blood also concerns me for sparrowhawk kill, usually they would have plucked the main feathers before eating, therefore little or no blood on the feathers. Perhaps the bad weather has made a difference.

As for what the bird was, can you give some idea of size? The shape of the primaries look like pigeon if the size is right.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

the naturalist man's picture


It could be a passing peregrine, they are messy killers!

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'