High above Cambridge’s Trinity College, a hawk has swooped on the hapless bird as it perches on the college clock.

But the bird of prey got stuck behind the giant minute hand as it ticked towards 4.30pm – halting the century-old timepiece for more than three minutes.

Cambridge University engineering expert Dr Hugh Hunt, a fellow at Trinity, spotted the attack and posted pictures of it on Facebook.

He said: “Hawk eating pigeon on my clock dial, oblivious of looming minute hand. Will probably stop the clock.”

It did. College members who look after the pendulum-driven machinery later said on the Trinity website: “Quinn the Harris Hawk ate a pigeon and got stuck behind the minute hand, causing a 186-second stoppage.”

Several members were deployed to reset the clock and do “a top-up wind.”

Later Dr Hunt posted a diagram showing how the clock’s pendulum was affected, captioning it: “The amplitude of swing of the pendulum from yesterday afternoon. Definitely disturbed by the carnage.”

The clock is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Trinity, King Edward’s Gate, originally the entrance to King’s Hall, which joined with Michaelhouse in the 16th century to become Trinity, then called the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

The current clock was installed in 1910, and is unusual in that it chimes the hour twice.

The first chime is a low note, and is called the Trinity Chime, and the second is a higher one, the St John’s Chime. William Wordsworth, a St John’s alumnus, mentioned it in his 1850 poem The Prelude:

“Near me hung Trinity’s loquacious clock,

Who never let the quarters, night or day,

Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours

Twice over with a male and female voice.”

Birds of prey have been visiting Cambridge’s high towers and spires regularly. In the past few years, peregrine falcons have been seen nesting on top of the University Library and other tall buildings.


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