Some British Birds of Prey
Common Kestrels measure 32–39 cm (13–15 in) from head to tail, with a wingspan of 65–82 cm (26–32 in). Females are noticeably larger, with the adult male weighing 136-252 g (c,5-9 oz), around 155 g (around 5.5 oz) on average; the adult female weighs 154-314 g (about 5.5-11 oz), around 184 g (around 6.5 oz) on average. They are thus small compared with other birds of prey, but larger than most songbirds. Like the other Falco species, they have long wings as well as a distinctive long tail.
Their plumage is mainly light chestnut brown with blackish spots on the upperside and buff with narrow blackish streaks on the underside; the remiges are also blackish. Unlike most raptors, they display sexual colour dimorphism with the male having fewer black spots and streaks, as well as a blue-grey cap and tail. The tail is brown with black bars in females, and has a black tip with a narrow white rim in both sexes. All Common Kestrels have a prominent black malar stripe like their closest relatives.
The cere, feet, and a narrow ring around the eye are bright yellow; the toenails, bill and iris are dark. Juveniles look like adult females, but the underside streaks are wider; the yellow of their bare parts is paler. Hatchlings are covered in white down feathers, changing to a buff-grey second down coat before they grow their first true plumage
The Common Buzzard measures between 40 and 58 cm (16 and 23 in) in length with a 109–136 cm (43–54 in) wingspan and a body mass of 427–1,364 g (0.94–3.01 lb), making it a medium-sized raptor.
This broad-winged raptor has a wide variety of plumages, and in Europe can be confused with the similar Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) and the only distantly related European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), which mimics the Common Buzzard's plumage for a degree of protection from Northern Goshawks. The plumage can vary in Britain from almost pure white to black, but is usually shades of brown, with a pale 'necklace' of feathers.
The Northern Goshawk is the largest member of the genus Accipiter. It is a raptor with short, broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to manoeuvring through trees in the forests it lives and nests in. Across most of the species's range, it is blue-grey above and barred grey or white below, but Asian subspecies in particular range from nearly white overall to nearly black above. The juvenile is brown above and barred brown below. Juveniles and adults have a barred tail, with dark brown or black barring. Adults always have a white eye stripe. In North America, juveniles have pale-yellow eyes, and adults develop dark red eyes usually after their second year, although nutrition and genetics may affect eye color as well. In Europe and Asia, juveniles also have pale-yellow eyes, however adults develop orange-colored eyes.
The Merlin is 24–33 cm (9.4–13 in) long with a 50–73 cm (20–29 in) wingspan. Compared to most other small falcons, it is more robust and heavily built. Males average at about 165 g (5.8 oz) and females are typically about 230 g (8.1 oz). There is considerable variation, however, throughout the birds' range and—in particular in migratory populations—over the course of a year. Thus, adult males may weigh 125–210 g (4.4–7.4 oz), and females 190–300 g (6.7–11 oz). Each wing measures 18.2–23.8 cm (7.2–9.4 in), the tail measures 12.7–18.5 cm (5.0–7.3 in) and the tarsus measures 3.7 cm (1.5 in). Such sexual dimorphism is common among raptors; it allows males and females to hunt different prey animals and decreases the territory size needed to feed a mated pair.
The male Merlin has a blue-grey back, ranging from almost black to silver-grey in different subspecies. Its underparts are buff- to orange-tinted and more or less heavily streaked with black to reddish brown. The female and immature are brownish-grey to dark brown above, and whitish buff spotted with brown below. Besides a weak whitish supercilium and the faint dark malar stripe—which are barely recognizable in both the palest and the darkest birds—the face of the Merlin is less strongly patterned than in most other falcons. Nestlings are covered in pale buff down feathers, shading to whitish on the belly.
The Eurasian (or Northern) Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawks have bluish grey upperparts and orange-barred underparts; females and juveniles are brown above with brown barring below. The female is up to 25% larger than the male – one of the largest differences between the sexes in any bird species. Though it is a predator which specialises in catching woodland birds, the Eurasian Sparrowhawk can be found in any habitat and often hunts garden birds in towns and cities. Males tend to take smaller birds, including tits, finches, and sparrows; females catch primarily thrushes and starlings, but are capable of killing birds weighing 500 grams (18 oz) or more.
The Eurasian Sparrowhawk is found throughout the temperate and subtropical parts of the Old World; while birds from the northern parts of the range migrate south for winter, their southern counterparts remain resident or make dispersive movements. Eurasian Sparrowhawks breed in suitable woodland of any type, with the nest, measuring up to 60 cm (2.0 ft) across, built using twigs in a tree. Four or five pale blue, brown-spotted eggs are laid; the success of the breeding attempt is dependent on the female maintaining a high weight while the male brings her food. The chicks hatch after 33 days and fledge after 24 to 28 days.
More ID Help
Bar tailed Godwit
Black tailed Godwit
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Some British Birds of Prey
Wader ID Help
The Barn Owl Trust
The Hawk and Owl Trust
Wildlife & Environmental Causes
All images appearing on this website and its content are the copyright of John S Betts. All rights reserved.