Guilty Pleasures

This post comes with a warning! Some of the images may be considered rather gruesome but then ….. it’s nature and if you take photographs of nature you have to expect something not very pleasant occasionally.  I’d like to be able to say that I didn’t enjoy capturing these images but the awful truth is, I kind of did.  Somewhat.  Let me explain.


If you feed the birds on a regular basis you will know that it does tend to attract larger predators and I always feel a bit guilty that I’m setting the table, so to speak, for a possible kill.  The hawk makes so many passes over our garden during the course of the year and for the most part comes up empty, but on this occasion it managed to catch a sparrow. He played around with it for a bit, pulling out a few feathers and then dropped it into a nearby flower pot.  He seemed to lose interest in things and went to sit in the lilac bush.


I was horrified to see that the sparrow was still alive and making a feeble attempt to escape.  I debated whether to go out there and scare the hawk away but I figured the sparrow was so badly injured by this time that I really wouldn’t be doing it any favors so I left well alone and hoped that the hawk would at least return and put an end to its misery.  It did.



With a certain sense of macabre irony, the hawk decided to carry its meal over to the little table on the patio and proceeded to chow down.  And I captured every gory moment with the camera.  In mitigation I can only say that these days I rarely, if ever, brave the freezing winter weather to go out and get nature shots, instead relying on nature to come to our garden in the suburbs, and opportunities like this don’t come very often so I have to make the most of them when they do.  Of course I was sorry for the sparrow but hawks have to eat too, and it is such a handsome bird.




When he’d finished his meal, the hawk ruffled his feathers, gave one final shriek and took off, leaving the sparrow’s head like some grotesque tip for the server (me, apparently.) Thanks!


19 thoughts on “Guilty Pleasures

    • I’d just got home from the library and happened to look through the kitchen window. What was really amazing was the fact that the hawk, who must clearly have seen me gawping at it, didn’t fly away as it usually does. Instead it wandered around the garden while I dashed from window to window with the camera. Even the man next door, emptying his trash just a few feet away, didn’t scare it off.

  1. We have seen similarly-set chases several times in our backyard, but have not yet witnessed a capture and kill. We also feel like feeding the birds feeds the whole food chain (eventually). But, just like you said, hawks have to eat, too! We are now to the point that we find ourselves rooting for the hawk. Thanks so much for sharing these!

    • Thanks for taking a look. I was in two minds whether to post these, but then it seemed a pity not to use them as the hawk turned out so nicely. Just so long as he doesn’t make too much of a habit of it. I don’t relish cleaning up the left-overs.

  2. I often see the result of such things when out walking but I’ve never been lucky enough to photograph it. If I do see it I’d definitely photograph it, just the same way as I’d photograph cute chicks = all part of nature!

  3. Good shots. I recently read a suggestion that garden feeders actually harm small bird populations by making them susceptible to predator attacks and increasing the number of predators but I find it hard to believe.

    • Thanks, Tom. Although the hawk is often around the garden, the smaller birds seem very alert to its presence and I’ve rarely seen it catch anything so I would agree with you on the idea that feeding the birds does more harm than good.

  4. What fantastic photos! Very sad for the individual sparrow, but that is nature for you. By feeding them you are helping to bolster their numbers, more food for the hawks, but more resilience for the species too.

  5. Wonderful photos of a magnificent bird Sue. I have a similar problem with the Barn Cats catching an occasional bird from my feeder, but compared to the many birds that benefit from my offerings, I think they still come out ahead.

  6. Magpies and Jays are the biggest threat to the small birds in my garden – too much foliage for a Sparrow Hawk to have much success (although they do occasionally pass through). Great set of shots.

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