lfd33's picture


Yesterday I saw a Sparrowhawk swoop low past me in the drive chasing a small bird and then into the passage between our garage and the next door house. A minute later a magpie emerged from the same passage holding a wriggling bird in it's beak and flew to the chimney where it met another magpie and then they flew down to the lawn next door to eat the catch. Do not know if this was a coincidence ie the magpie had found a chick in a nest or whether it stole the bird from the sparrowhawk. Interesting behaviour from two birds in the space of a few minutes.



anonymous spotter's picture

Magpie intelligence

I haven't observed this behaviour, but I have seen (and others have reported) cases where a bird "spooked" by a sparrowhawk has flown into a window and been stunned - the sparrowhawk is presumably unwilling to come to close to the house, so magpies take the chance and grab the stunned bird.

Matt P's picture

Hunting Sparrowhawk

I'm not so sure that a hunting sparrowhawk would be so easily spooked.
Some years ago I was visiting a farm, and went to the front door. As I was about to knock, a small frock of sparrows (8-10 birds) flew into a large spikey shrub right beside me. I was just thinking that this was a little odd, with me standing right next to the bush, when they were followed by a large hen Sparrowhawk. It clambered around within the bush for about ten seconds trying to catch one of the sparrows, so close to me that I could easily have reached in and touched it.
The sparrows had no intention of leaving the safety of the bush, and hopped from branch to branch, just keeping ahead of the hawk.
It then seemed to notice me for the first time, and flew out, but only as far as an overhanging Oak branch some five feet above me, where it was still perched when I went into the house.
One of a number of amazingly close encounters which I've been privillaged to have with probably my favorite bird of prey.

sa6688's picture

hunting sparrowhawk

I would agree that a sparrowhawk out hunting does not seem to worry about humans. Some time last summer, just as I walked out of the back door, a sparrowhawk dived onto a collared dove that was flying away from the feeder, and both crashed to the floor at my feet. The hawk just held tight to its prey, which was completely limp, presumably dead, then carried it 6 feet to the side of the greenhouse, and glared at me ,almost challenging, as if saying "so, are you big enough to get this from me, then?"It calmly plucked the feathers and ate the flesh from the breast, then flew off.


anonymous spotter's picture

Hunting Sparrowhawks

I'd agree that they can be very bold, but not always. I've seen one pluck a kill on a fence only 20m from a group of conservation volunteers having their lunch. I guess it depends how hungry they are.

anthonyallen's picture

Magpie the chick stealer

Magpies are known for snatching eggs from
birds nests. But it is also possible for a magpie to eat chicks from nests. In this case i would say that even if the small bird did escape the great talons of the Sparrowhawk it would have fleed to a safe place out of sight from predators. I think the bird that the Magpie found was dead when it found it because they never go in persuit of live birds for prey. Magpies are Scavengers!!