Durban South’s black sparrowhawks misunderstood

By Warren Dick

The Durban South area is blessed to have quite a few different species of birds of prey.
One of these which seems most tolerant to urban sprawl is the black sparrowhawk.
I even know of a pair that nest and successfully raise their chicks at the Old Fort Chapel in the middle of Durban’s CBD. The key to this bird’s success is probably due to its taste for doves and pigeons, which are very often chased down and caught in mid-air. There are few sights that are more thrilling for me to watch than seeing these birds hunt.

 


As one of the largest species of sparrowhawk in the world, the black sparrowhawk measures around 50cm in height, with a wingspan of a metre. Adults are mostly black in colour, with some white on the chest but this can vary dramatically between different individuals. Juveniles are a sandy brown colour with black specks. These birds mate for life, and will also come back to the same nest year after year to raise a new batch of chicks.

 


Like most other birds of prey, the black sparrowhawk is often hated and even killed by humans because of their natural hunting instinct. I am blessed to see these birds almost every day as they fly between my neighbours’ properties in search of pigeons and doves. Just as a lot of people do, my neighbours have set up feeding stations to feed wild birds in the afternoon and it is this very thing that also attracts the black sparrowhawk. The hawks fly from feeding station to feeding station until they manage to capture a dove for supper. Sadly, this natural instinct causes people to hate them. I have also heard of stories where hawks have caught people’s prized racing pigeons, or even eaten a pet African grey parrot left unattended on a play stand outside.

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I really wish more people would realise that we live in Africa, a beautiful place with many interesting and even dangerous animals, birds, reptiles and insects. Rather than killing things we deem to endanger us or our pets, we need to learn to live with and conserve them. I firmly believe every living creature was made with a plan and purpose in mind and to remove something because of our own fears, will result in a major imbalance to our eco-system.

 

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  AUTHOR
Lauren Beukes
Journalist

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