Hawk among the Pigeons



Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in flight at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

You may have heard the expression “cat among the pigeons”.

Last week I experienced a similar situation but involving a Sparrow Hawk.

Whilst strolling across open farmland around Croagh Bay on the west coast of Ireland, I heard the alarm calls of several bird species including starlings and blackbirds.

That’s when I saw the culprit – a Sparrow Hawk!

The hawk was cruising just centimeters over the dry, stone walls and bramble-infested hedgerows with the intention of “flushing out” small birds for its lunchtime meal. It all happened very quickly but occasionally the hawk would find a perch and pause for a few minutes rest. Then the performance would be repeated, and I must have watched 4 or 5 performances in total!

The whole time the blackbirds and starlings in an airborne group continued to “mock” the hawk. I guess their thinking was that “there’s safety in numbers”.

In the end the hawk decided to rest in a tall, ash tree, and that’s when things got really lively. As soon as the hawk perched in the tree, there was an explosion of feathers as half a dozen wood pigeon took to the air.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) among the pigeons at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in flight at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in flight at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in flight at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in flight at Croagh Bay, Gubbeen, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

I had previously noted that this particular tree was a favorite roost for the pigeons and wasn’t surprised to see them.

Luckily the hawk scared them in my direction, so I was able to capture some flight shots. Normally when I’m the one disturbing them by walking by, they tend to fly in the other direction and then you only get the “rear” view!

Link to more Wood Pigeon images

Ken Billington

Ken Billington

Ken, a scientist by training held various management positions in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries during his professional career, enabling him to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Americas, North Africa, Asia and Japan. Ken has always been a keen photographer and bought his first telephoto lens 10 years ago. This was the beginning of his interest in bird photography. Since then he has also become an active supporter of birding and wildlife conservation.

Ken Billington

Ken Billington

Ken, a scientist by training held various management positions in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries during his professional career, enabling him to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Americas, North Africa, Asia and Japan. Ken has always been a keen photographer and bought his first telephoto lens 10 years ago. This was the beginning of his interest in bird photography. Since then he has also become an active supporter of birding and wildlife conservation.

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Pierre Gagnaux

I have pictures of a hawk strangulating a pigeon behind my car house, it takes 2-3 minutes to kill him, it was the noise make by the pigeon which alert me, I’ve never seen that before, the difference in size is not very important, and the hawk can’t eat all the pigeon before some other bird see that, crows comes fast to participate… 

Ken_Billington

Yes, it’s amazing how strong hawks are in relation to their size – it would be interesting to see your pictures of the hawk.