News and Stories

Sparrowhawk attacks on Racing Pigeons – Research Update (16th April 2008)

The above research, due to begin on Monday 17th March 2008 has been postponed until the autumn. This is obviously extremely disappointing, particularly since the project was pulled just three days before work was due to begin.

The Environment Minister, Mike Russell has again stated publicly that he is determined to proceed with this project which he describes in the Glasgow Herald ‘sensible’.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, your effort on our behalf is greatly appreciated and we hope you will stay on board.

What do Scottish Homing Union members want? Simply to protect our pigeons in our own back gardens.

Sparrow Hawk Kill

The position of the Scottish Homing Union remains unaltered. We must be allowed to protect our racing pigeons in our own back garden loft areas. We propose to use a Larsen type trap to catch sparrowhawks that attack our garden lofts, an expert handler will then relocate them 30km away at an agreed location where there are appropriate habitat conditions. There is good evidence to support our view that once removed, sparrowhawks will not return from this distance and if that is found to be the case there is no reason to think it will not offer an acceptable solution to members who are suffering sustained attacks.

What the public does not realise:

Sparrowhawks have never been so prevalent... It is a fact that they have reached saturation level.

What the general public do not see:

The cruel deaths of our racing pigeons just yards from their lofts... A place where our birds should feel safe has become a feeding ground for sparrowhawks.

Sparrow Hawk Kill

When sparrowhawks attack, they don’t just injure and kill the pigeons they hit, the remaining birds in the loft are terrorised and panicked and this itself causes further damage when pigeons hit obstacles or simply fly off and don’t return. Young bird homing instinct can be destroyed in these attacks leaving birds traumatised. Some lofts are attacked incessantly and we believe that if we can remove offending sparrowhawks the problems can be alleviated and the sanctity of the lofts in our gardens restored.

The ‘old bird’ racing season begins mid to late April and these pigeons must be exercised and made fit prior to the first races. This period coincides with the sparrowhawk hen’s pattern of hunting in the spring. In the autumn, many of our champion birds, those that have survived running the gauntlet of peregrine falcon attacks on the race route, are killed at home where they should be safe.

Sparrowhawks do not kill instantly – They pin their victim down and pluck away feathers and skin. It can take 20 minutes before a pigeon dies. It is a slow and painful death - even if the sparrowhawk is spotted and chased off, the pigeon is often left horrifically injured, some, though traumatised, survive, others cannot be saved.

What we don’t want:

No pigeon fancier has ever called for the extermination of birds of prey, most pigeon fanciers are knowledgeable of their native flora and fauna and would consider themselves lovers of the countryside, however they have a right to enjoy their pigeons and a basic right to protect them. The Scottish Homing Union is hopeful that work will begin again in the autumn of 2008 that will have the potential to help us resolve our problem. In the meantime, the carnage continues...