Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sparring Sparrowhawks

A pugnacious female Sparrowhawk (Ian Alexander)
Uh-oh, she spotted us! (Ian Alexander)
A visit to Gunnersbury Triangle Local Nature Reserve in Chiswick, west London yesterday resulted in witnessing an unusual experience. This woodland reserve is under severe threat of being walled in by development. It's currently bordered by industry, housing and a railway line - hardly an ideal setting for wildlife to flourish you would have thought. But there is plenty there.... at the moment. The local conservation group need signatures urgently for their online petition to stave off the developers

Anyway, I was walking with Triangle stalwarts Marie Rabouhans and Jan Hewlett when we bumped into a couple of quantity surveyers along the path. One said he had just seen a 'hawk take a Wood Pigeon'. To our surprise literally seven feet away we saw a large female Sparrowhawk spreadeagled on top of the woodland floor vegetation obviously pinning something down. A closer inspection revealed that its 'prey' was not a Wood Pigeon but another distinctly smaller female Sparrowhawk!

They grappled a bit more before the smaller bird managed to gain the ascendency and topple the larger bird on her back. They were aware of us during the whole process and without warning they disentangled and flew off. For the next hour we watched them chase themselves around the woodland.

I had never seen this kind of behaviour before but I assume that because females are a third bigger than the males perhaps they are the ones to settle territorial disputes?


Marianne said...

In many bird species there is some competion (for mates and territory) between females as well as between males. In the Sparrowhawk, the majority of aggressive interactions involve females rather than males. Must have been an incredible thing to see!

Andy said...

I go to the triangle a fair bit, and the Sparrowhawks are quite a common sight. Normally they can be seen taking a drink or a wash in the small pond, or hunting along the railway lines, they are especially funny when they hunt along the paths once trees are in full leaf early on or late in the evening, if they are about and you stay quite still to the sides of the path, they fly straight past you quite happily!

I have never seen them do this though, must have been magical to see such behaviour!!

I would also urge everyone who reads this to sign the petition, the Triangle will soon be like Colditz if the development goes ahead, the plans are completely insensitive to the wildlife needs. I have already noted a decline in the number of bird species and sightings since the most recent development started going up.

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