VISITORS to Paignton saw nature red in tooth and claw when a magnificent sparrowhawk swooped down to feast on a pigeon lunch.

The bird of prey enjoyed its kill on the pavement in full view of busy shoppers on Hyde Road.

These images of the hungry raptor were captured by David Knowles, a member of Newton Abbot Photo Club, who was visiting the town on Wednesday.

He said: “It was amazing. There were a few people looking through a window and a scattering of feathers.

“She was clearly hungry as she allowed me and a number of other members of the public to get quite close and was totally unperturbed by us.

“It is a bit bloody but this is nature in the raw. It is why animals come in all shapes and sizes and why they all have a place on the planet.”

This particular spciment is a female sparrowhawk which is up to 25 per cent larger than males. The Latin name is accipiter nisus.

PC Josh Marshall, Totnes-based wildlife crime officer, said: “Whilst it could be considered a gruesome picture this is also a fantastic spectacle of nature. Sparrowhawks when found like the one pictured can be unusually accepting of human presence for such a wary bird. This is a sight often seen by persons who feed birds in their back gardens as sparrowhawks often hunt in these areas as a number of songbirds are attracted to food sources placed out by homeowners.


Diet consists of primarily of birds.
Sparrowhawks regularly hunt in back gardens where they use their fast and agile flight to ambush songbirds taking them with their feet.
Female birds can take prey items up to the size of a woodpigeon. They will pluck the prey (as in this photo) prior to eating it.
Male birds show a rufous colour to the breast and have blue/grey upperparts.
They nest in May in coniferous/deciduous plantations where they lay 4-5 eggs, incubation lasting 33 days. The young are fed on small birds brought by both male and female birds and remain in the nest for around 30 days.


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