Eurasian Sparrowhawk attacks Snow Pigeons

Rev.: 25 September 2013

Outskirts of Mukku Math, near Kedarnath WLS, Uttarakhand, India on 24 January 2012

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Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Adult Female

An Adult Female Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus
near outskirts of Mukku Math,
near Kedarnath WLS, Uttarakhand, India
staring at the harassing crow.
The crow made the Sparrowhawk leave.

The Himalaya at Mukku Math (elev. 1600 mtrs) is just below the winter snowline of 1800mtrs. Winter is the best time for observing the birds which migrate to lower altitudes. Many of course migrate to the Indian plains.

Chance encounter

On a clear morning of 24th January 2012 from above the surrounding hills, the horizontal shafts of yellow sunshine lay dispersed on the terraced fields, drying the moist soil and rejuvenating the cold air. It was just the right ambiance for a good photograph.

We crept up along the shadows and positioned ourselves behind a boulder, our target was the Snow Pigeon, Columba leuconota. The terraced step hid a big flock which had just settled. The warm sun-rays stung my face, but we waited for the wary pigeons as they are known to skitter away on slightest hint of trespass into their privacy. After a while, a pigeon partially appeared, the white of its belly dazzling in the sunlight.

Then, suddenly out of nowhere, before I could set my camera, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk swooped in with lightening speed, keeping the sun behind itself, and pounced upon the pigeons with its talons stretched out. However, the attack failed. The terrified pigeons, with a powerful wing-beat shot out radially outwards into the air and were soon out of sight. The whole area became alive with bird alarm calls. With its cover blown the ES settled on a nearby tree, and later, a harassing crow also joined. Instead of the Snow Pigeon, I ended up with images of the Eurasian Sparrowhawk.


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