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We need to talk about intraguild predation



The tale of how Winnie, Winchester Cathedral’s resident peregrine falcon, died after falling victim to an ‘encounter’ with a newly arrived, younger female peregrine has raised the topic of intraguild predation among birds of prey.

 

Another news story related to new evidence published by ornithologists relating to the predation of young Gyr Falcons by another raptor.

 

This is the first evidence of young Gyr Falcons being predated by another raptor. The birds have few predators or natural enemies. However, a camera trap forming part of a programme monitoring 11 Gyr Falcon nests in Lierne, central Norway, captured images of a one year-old female Eurasian Goshawk killing three of the four Gyr chicks in the nest and partially eating some of the victims. 

 

Goshawks have a long list of documented prey items, including a wide variety of mammals and birds, including owls and raptors. Previous research has shown that Northern Goshawks can have a negative effect on the breeding success of other raptors such as the Common Buzzard and the European Honey Buzzard.

 

Understandably, it is often in situations where raptors are living in close proximity to one another that intraguild predation is more likely to happen.

 

As an article in The Times which reported Winnie’s death stated: “In the 19th and 20th century the birds suffered a catastrophic decline in populations due to persecution, and in the mid-20th century widespread contamination by pesticides. In particular, the pesticide DDT weakened the eggshells of the birds and their ability to breed. By 1963, 80 per cent of the UK peregrine population had been lost.”

 

However as a result of historic behaviours, there remains a tendency to jump to conclusions whenever any bird of prey is found dead. It’s important to remember that all birds can die for any reason; and as the raptor population of the UK continues to flourish, it’s likely that intraguild predation will become increasingly common.

 

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