asbostaff's picture

Murder mystery

Observed: 1st December 2009 By: asbostaffasbostaff’s reputation in Birdsasbostaff’s reputation in Birdsasbostaff’s reputation in Birds
Murder mystery

A pile of feathers on the Cedar Lawn at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes. Looks Like a Woodpigeon, but whodunnit? I suspect a local Sparrowhawk!

Species interactions

No interactions present.


the naturalist man's picture

Sparrowhawk kill

I agree, almost certainly a sparrowhawk kill. A mammal carnivore would have dragged the body to a more secluded spot before plucking and killing; sparrowhawks pluck before carrying the body off. You can easily check by looking at the end of the feathers; if the tips are whole a bird plucked the corpse, if they have been bitten off then a fox, stoat, weasel or badger was involved.

It looks like the pigeon stuggled, another sign of a bird kill as sparrowhawks rarely kill outright. Often the pigeon escapes only to be caught again, this leaves a trail of two, or three pluck sites.

This would have been a female sparrowhawk as the males are not large enough to tackle a woodpigeon.

Graham Banwell

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asbostaff's picture

Sparrowhawk kill

Thanks, Graham - a very useful identification clue: the feathers were indeed plucked whole and not bitten through.

John O'D

RoyW's picture

Feather ID.

While I agree that this looks like evidence of a Sparrowhawk (or other raptor) kill, I disagree with the identification of the possible prey.

Although the photo itself does not enlarge, if the web page is zoomed to 200%+ fairly small, brownish, wing or tail feathers can be seen at the right side of the photo (suggesting that the prey was a passerine, perhaps Robin or Blackbird??).
The down feathers, and the parts of other body feathers that are not normally visible, will look grey in most birds.