Birds are putting on a spring show

PUBLISHED: 11:49 23 March 2007 | UPDATED: 22:39 28 May 2010

It s a great time of the year to watch birds displaying. Lots of species are taking to the air to show off their aerial prowess to one another and provide us with a treat at the same time. Birds of prey are the real masters at this. Locally, you could see

It's a great time of the year to watch birds displaying. Lots of species are taking to the air to show off their aerial prowess to one another and provide us with a treat at the same time.

Birds of prey are the real masters at this. Locally, you could see sparrowhawks, buzzards and marsh harriers all performing at the moment, so it is well worth casting the occasional eye skywards over the coming weeks.

Marsh harriers are increasing year on year. Look out for them over farmland, the washlands and any areas of reedbed. During display, they fly around as if they are on pieces of elastic, rising and falling in the sky with amazing ease for such a big bird.

Sparrowhawks have now returned to most of their old haunts, following the years of unjust persecution and DDT poisoning in the food chain that almost, unthinkably, wiped them out completely.

They sit at the top of the food chain in our towns and villages, as well as in the countryside, so look out for their distinctive 'flap-flap, glide' style of flight.

Buzzards are also back, although they will always be scarcer in less well-wooded areas like the Fens. They can spend long periods soaring around above their territories in March seemingly for fun. Most extensive woods in East Anglia now have them back and they are readily taking to smaller ones.

Male birds of prey (generally the instigators in the courtship process) are regularly joined by their mates in the air. They then perform together to reinforce the pair bond between them. The pair that displays together, stays together.

Your garden residents will be up to some interesting tricks too. Watch out for starlings perched on your roof, puffing their chests out and flapping their wings in comical manner while they sing their crackly songs.

A plea as well to let these birds (and sparrows) nest in your roof. They have been deprived of so many natural nest sites, so if you do have a few cracks and crevices in your roof, please leave them unblocked so the birds can breed this spring and summer.

Dunnocks are easy to overlook, but as they go about their complex mating rituals (regularly involving three or more individuals), they make themselves more obvious than usual. They too can be seen waving their wings about as they creep about the tops of hedges or along the ground as part of the courtship process.


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