The Misunderstood Dynamics of Predator and Prey: A Sparrowhawk's Tale

Recently, I’ve seen a fair number of social media posts regarding injured pigeons and doves where people have ‘heroically’ managed to rescue the bird from the grips of a ‘hawk’.

9/10 times what they describe as the ‘perpetrator’ is a sparrowhawk.

Without wanting to be a big ‘killjoy’ about the efforts made to rescue the pigeon, I do however, find it somewhat bizarre as to why individuals feel the need to interfere with nature like this…

Because, ultimately, that’s what’s happening here. Interference.

The sparrowhawk is a native bird of prey in the UK. Its role in the environment is to be a predator and hunt natural prey, which is almost exclusively other birds, with some individuals actively hunting bats.

The amount of energy used on a ‘hunt’ is tremendous, and when successful, the prey ‘item’ will help refuel and keep the bird (and its young) alive. A hunting sparrowhawk will also keep in check the local prey birds; males usually hunt smaller garden birds, whereas the females ‘who are much larger’ will take down larger prey such as pigeons.

A predator is almost ‘lazy’. It will always try to target the weak, the sick and the young/old birds first. As these won’t put up much of a fight or require lots of energy to be wasted. Which is actually a very good way to restore natural balance and a healthy species count.


If we then walk in on a hunt and ‘rescue’ the pigeon, that sparrowhawk has just lost its food source, which it and others could well be depending upon for survival!

So, by interfering, you’re not really rescuing, as you’re more likely to be causing damage towards the predator and any depending young, which could also spell a death sentence for them.

I completely understand that it can seem harsh or upsetting to see, but nature wasn’t designed for all things cute and happy endings. Life in the wild is about survival of the fittest and a complete game of chance. We, as a species, ‘Humans’ already interfere and have caused significant damage towards what’s left of the so-called ‘Wild’.

As a wildlife rehabber/ rescuer, I would suggest that these cases be left alone. We are not here to play god. We are here to help restore some balance to what we as a species have had upon their natural lives.

We here at OWR do rescue pigeons, (I personally do actually quite like them!) but these are almost always due to becoming cat victims, car victims or other human related causes, not natural occurrences.

Nature can be cruel, but it is equally beautiful and a marvel of natural wonder.

Enjoy it! but from a distance and without disturbing the show :blush:

(written by Luke Waclawek - Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue)

1 Like

I think this is really well stated. Kris and Martin Kraft once said “ There is no good and bad, there is only predator and prey”. Our food comes neatly packaged to us in today’s society, so we don’t think about the process and circle of life that it takes to make it happen. Death is just as much a part of nature as life is. We need to respect our position in the circle and leave nature to its natural processes. Our only intervention should be to mitigate the issues that our species has caused…