January 30th   Leave a comment

Woodpigeons are a very common bird. Probably our most abundant larger bird. You can’t have failed to notice the big flocks around Crail this winter. So much available food for large birds of prey. It’s a shame we don’t have any goshawks about: there are enough woodpigeons to support several pairs. I did see one of our peregrines having a go today though as I returned from St Andrews, early enough that there was still light in the sky. A female (big!) was stooping at a flock of several hundred woodpigeon wheeling around the sheep fields just north of Bow Butts, trying to get a meal sorted before a very cold night. I didn’t see whether it was successful but I have been seeing lots of piles of plucked woodpigeon feathers in the stubble fields over the last couple of months. Buzzards and sparrowhawks catch woodpigeons as well so these will not all be peregrine kills. Even so, numerically, the peregrines will barely be making a dent in the thousands of woodpigeons in the East Neuk. They will, however, be making a difference in how long woodpigeons can feed and how much energy they use: when you see the trees covered with alert woodpigeons, or a wheeling flock, they have probably been spooked by a predator and they have to wait to be sure that the coast is clear. After all who wants to be the first to break cover if the peregrine is still around? In cold weather like today, this might make all the difference between breaking even energetically as individuals use more energy than they gain. Some woodpigeons will be starting to starve because they are too frightened to feed for as long as they need to. The fear of predation has a much bigger effect than the actual act itself. That peregrine being around Crail this evening may have pushed some of the weaker birds over the edge and a very cold night may then finish the job. And if not, these starving birds will be easy pickings the following day for the buzzards and sparrowhawks and foxes, less well adapted to catching a healthy, fast flying woodpigeon.

Peregrine – you just need one around for it to have big effects on its prey

Posted January 31, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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