I have always been fascinated by birds of prey. They look so beautiful but are perfectly built to swoop down and catch their food. Living in a city you do not often get the chance to see these birds. They can sometimes be seen hovering above fields or motorways but sighting them is rare. Recently we went to Blyth beach to visit Blyth batttery and found that Blyth had gone to war. There was a re-enactment going on which included first and second world war soldiers to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Blyth battery. As well as this there was also a fairground and other things going on. I was fascinated to find a stand with birds of prey run by by KG Hawks Falconry Services.
KG Hawks are based in Scotland and as well as offering a range of falconry services they run a rehab and re-homing service for any raptors that are injured. While birds of prey look tough we need to remember that many of the species in the UK were in decline until recently. The use of pesticides on fields and illegal egg collecting had an adverse effect on the population. Birds of prey are bigger than song birds and tend to live longer. They also lay fewer eggs per clutch. This means they can not breed as fast so the population can decline quickly. Five of the fifteen birds of prey found in the UK were driven to extinction before World War I. In recent years some of these birds have been reintroduced to the wild successfully. An example of this is the osprey, which can be found locally at Kielder Water and Forest Park.
I stopped for a while and had a good look at the birds. We were also given a lot of information about them which I found fascinating.
Barn owls have a distinctive heart shaped face and is found widely across the UK. It can be seen in open country, around field edges and riverbanks. You are most likely to see a barn owl at dusk. They eat mice, voles and shrews and are adapted for hunting at night with incredibly sensitive hearing and the ability to see movement with little light. They make screeching and hissing noises rather than the hoot you would associate with an owl. This can be a bit unnerving on a dark night.
This imposing owl is an Indian or Bengal Eagle Owl. They can weigh over 2 lbs and have a wingspan of five foot. The distinctive tufts on his head give him a quizzical look. They can be found across India in rocky hills, semi deserts and wooded scrub land. They have a low clear and ringing cry which is associated with misfortune, one calling from the roof of a house is said to indicate someone inside will pass away. They eat mice and rats but will also try crabs and lizards.
Little owls are found mainly across England and Wales, usually in lowland farmland with hedges and orchards. At the moment the population is declining which is a shame as they are such pretty birds. It is the smallest British owl and you can usually see it in the evening. Little owls love eating worms and insects.
The Ferruginous Hawk is a North American bird of prey that is found on plains and prairies. They are often used as hunting birds. Sadly they are endangered with only around 4000 pairs remaining. They will swoop down and catch rabbits, squirrels and snakes to eat. Ferruginous means rusty colour which refers to the colours in their wings and leg feathers which have a rusty colour.
The kestrel is a very pretty bird, it almost looks too pretty to be a bird of prey. It is a British bird and can often be seen hovering above a roadside verge. Apparently it can see in ultraviolet which helps it catch its prey. It likes to eat voles which tend to pee as they run around and the pee trail show up perfectly in ultraviolet. Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats and have even adapted to city living. The kestrel loved the sunlight and spread its wings to bask in the sun as it was being held.
KG Hawks were giving you the chance to try holding their birds and my husband paid for me to have a go. I chose to try holding Rascal as he was such a pretty bird. I also suspected that the big birds would be rather heavy. It was an amazing experience to be so close to a bird of prey. He seemed quite content to sit there and enjoy the sunshine.
I would love to try a proper falconry experience one day. Have you ever held a bird of prey? Let me know below.