Manx SPCA Chronicle: Some Harsh Realities of Nature

When you find an injured wild animal or bird, it’s usually best to take it to the nearest veterinary office for emergency treatment.

The code of practice for the veterinary profession means that they will provide this treatment free of charge, and a veterinarian will either have to euthanize the animal or bird if their injuries are significant, or stabilize it and ask us (or Manx Wild Bird Aid) to retrieve it.

We will then rehabilitate it, minimizing human contact, and release it into the wild as soon as possible, ideally as close to its original location as possible.

So when a gentleman came to our main reception here in Ard Jerkyll last week with a bird in a box our hearts sank a bit because ‘birds in boxes’ are usually the ones who have been attacked by a cat, then brought to the cat’s owner as a gift.

These birds have very little chance of survival, and there is not much we can do.

However, this was no ordinary bird – it was a female sparrowhawk (females have brownish underparts, while males have gray parts).

She had been found in the middle of a road in Peel with no obvious signs of injury, so we were hoping she just had a concussion.

Female hawks are much larger than their male counterparts and therefore are not as agile when hunting.

We think this female was probably chasing a pigeon and accidentally crashed into a window.

We kept her in a dark, quiet place for several hours and luckily she regained her balance, so we were able to release her that same evening in Peel.

The sparrowhawk is seen in urban areas more frequently than any other bird of prey.

March and April are the months when food availability is at its lowest and adult hawk mortality is at its highest – about a third of adults die each year, the most common cause being starvation.

Their life expectancy is less than three years, while most other species of birds of prey live much longer.

When you spot a sparrowhawk predating smaller birds, your first impulse may be to protect the “victim” by scaring off its attacker, but spare a thought for the hawk.

Some people worry that hawks will eat too many small birds and cause their populations to plummet or even endanger them.

Emotions can cloud the fact that scientific research indicates otherwise and long-term scientific studies have shown that hawks generally have little or no impact on backyard bird populations.

A study by the British Trust for Ornithology and funded by Songbird Survival examined the relationship between hawk populations and prey species over a 33-year period.

This study concluded that for the majority of garden bird species (notably sparrows!) there is no evidence that increases in hawk numbers are associated with population declines.

It is also clear that most species declines are due to factors such as habitat loss and pesticide use.

A hawk stealthily chasing its prey through our gardens may be hard for some people to watch, especially if there is a long chase through shrubbery and bushes before the final kill, but that is the harsh reality of the nature.

What is not so easy to accept is the predation of garden birds by domestic cats who do not hunt and kill because they are hungry, but because it is part of their natural instinct.

It is estimated that 27 million birds are killed each spring and summer in the UK by cats.

If this is a major concern for you, but you also love cats, then why not adopt an older cat who has given up hunting and prefers a quiet life, with very little effort and food to eat. Requirement ?

We have Casper and Rupert in our cattery at the moment who might just do the trick.

Comments are closed.