November, 2009


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • Latest news from Wildlife Enquiries



    Animal Aid’s latest newsletter seemed to imply that the RSPB is supporting a cull of ring-necked parakeets and Canada geese.  We haven’t managed to see this particular item but it clearly refers to Natural England’s inclusion of parakeets and non-native geese to certain general licences.   We were able to assure enquirers that no cull has been proposed and people will still need legitimate reasons to take action against parakeets.  These do not include being noisy, eating lots of peanuts and having bright green feathers!


    Tricho reports are dimishing at last.  This follows similar pattern to previous years.  The poor old greenfinches remain the main victims.


    Pheasants are still on the agenda, although it is the wide range of their colouring that is causing interest.  As well as the traditional golden brown and green colouring of the males, pheasants come in a range of other shades, can be completely green, or melanistic.  The latter is a plumage abnormality.  Melanistic birds have a large amount of dark pigmentation, so melanistic pheasants will have dark brown or almost black feathers.  Reeves pheasants are also featuring with a few sightings of this large, attractive, long-tailed bird.

    Pouvez-vous id cet oiseau s’il vous plait?

    Most people return from France with a bottle of wine or two but one person brought back a dead bird so that we could identify it.  It was in a freezer for 2 months before the finder could get it to us.  It was a pied flycatcher.  Apparently, these are very common in the south of France.

    What’s happened to my birds?

    Still absent from many areas as colder weather has yet to hit.  Loads of natural food providing them with plenty of alternatives to garden feeding stations.  They will be featuring in a garden near you in the near future no doubt.

    Oil tankers

    A member from the southwest was concerned about the large numbers of oil tankers moored off the coast in an area that has previously seen massive oil spills.  They are not just a feature of the southwest coast with more than 30 lurking of the Suffolk coast too.  Let us hope for calm conditions at sea.

    Bird brain

    A somewhat confused golden eagle attempted to attack a lurcher in Ayrshire.  Its motives remain a subject for debate.

    And what we are not getting -

    Kamikaze woodcocks, throwing themselves at windows, have clearly learnt better navigational skills and swans have left centre stage to rehearse for the Twelve Days of Christmas, although one or two missed the auditions.  Not many winter visitor reports although numbers of starlings and geese, at winter roosts, are on the up.


  • latest hot topics from the RSPB wildlife enquiries team

    Birds and windows

    Lots of birds attacking, pecking and unfortunately crashing into windows at the moment. Some of the birds that seem to be most aggressive to their reflections include pied and grey wagtails, carrion crows and blue tits. The influx of woodcock over the last few weeks has resulted in many of these low flying migrants crashing into buildings, many in towns and cities resulting in baffled urban folk finding 'odd' looking brown birds outside office blocks. The newly built Royal Botanical Gardens visitor centre in Edinburgh has been plagued with bird collisions, which again highlights the dangers that large glass buildings pose for wildlife.


    Watching wildlife

    Now is a good time to see large aggregations of buzzards in agricultural areas as they gather to take advantage of the spoils from recently ploughed fields, some reports have involved in excess of 50 birds. Worms and beetles play an important part in the diet of many birds of prey which does come as a surprise to many people.


    Keep an eye open for barn owls hunting at dawn and dusk as many are still feeding young even into November. Siskin, redpoll and brambling will be turning up at bird feeders around the UK so we expect to start getting some more identification queries involving these species. If your not lucky enough to have them in the garden it is worth looking for them in areas with Alder and Birch, where they search for some of their favourite seed food.


    A flock of Eastern crowned warblers?

    With the amazing sighting of the eastern crowned warbler in south sheilds featuring heavily in the media, many people have contacted us with their sightings. Unfortunately, they have all been cases of mistaken identity. However, a couple of callers (Wolves, West Midlands and St Ives, Cambs) were lucky enough to see and photograph a yellow browed warbler in their gardens, top bird!


    I wandered lonely as a swan

    Many calls have related to concerns about single Swans, Geese and Ducks showing up in unexpected locations such as parks, gardens and coastal areas. During the autumn months, dispersal of the birds from their breeding and birth areas is perfectly normal. There is plenty of available food away from water bodies and although at first glance this may appear unusual to us, the birds themselves are perfectly able to cope alone in these habitats.  Only attempt to get the birds “rescued” if they are clearly injured, trapped or suffering.


    Avian pox reports

    The member groups of the Garden Bird Health Initiative (GBHi) have called for people to be vigilant of the symptoms of avian pox and help us monitor the spread in wild bird populations.  In the most common form (cutaneous pox), wart-like growths form around the eyes, beak and on unfeathered skin, including the legs. This often results in difficulty in breathing, feeding and seeing. In the less common form of pox (diphtheritic pox) the growths form inside the mouth, throat, lungs and windpipe. This results in difficulty in swallowing and breathing. Birds suffering from the disease (in either form) usually appear weak and emaciated. I you observe such signs please complete the garden bird disease monitoring form and email it into us at


    The National Trust follow RSPB advice on the dangers of mesh bags

    The National Trusts latest members magazine featured tips on feeding garden birds fatballs in mesh nets amongst other well-intended ideas. This was brought to the attention of Ian in Wildlife Enquiries by one of our concerned members. Following a number of photos we’ve received showing broken and trapped birds legs we highlighted these potential dangers and the NT have since changed their policy on how to feed birds –  a great result indeed!

  • Wildlife Enquires update..

    Yes, it's actually a goshawk
    We have been sent hundreds of pictures of "goshawks" in gardens. These all turn out to be sparrowhawks, which are much more common. However, we were sent a photo of an actual male goshawk in a garden. This was is Wales and the area looked quite wooded so seemed suitable. It made a welcome change to say, "yes it is a goshawk"

    Birds and windows
    We received lots of reports of all sorts of birds pecking at their reflections in windows this week. This included two reports from further a field including some sunbirds in the Gambia and what we think is a crested goshawk pecking on a hotel room window in Malaysia.

    Where possible we recommend putting up window stickers on the outside of the glass to break up the birds field of view on approach and reduce the number of impacts.

    Bird disease
    Still reports of dead finches coming in due Trichomoniasis. We are also getting reports of great tits with avian pox.

    Starlings in roofs is usually a spring thing but we are being asked how best to prevent them roosting. They can legally be blocked out as long as they are not nesting. If the starlings are blocked out then we are suggesting installing a nestbox on the roof to provide them with an alternative site.

    Conversely, we are getting lots of requests for the best places to see starling pre-roost displays where they can watch this “allelomimetic” behaviour. Apparently, that's what it's called when they all copy each other's movements. Every day's a school day in Wildlife Enquiries.

    Other recent sightings 

    Woodcock sightings are being made across the country with them showing up in peoples gardens and park land, 72 were seen on Fair Isle yesterday (01/11).

    We also took a report of a little egret sighted on the western isle of Benbecula (30/10). 

    The invasion of Redwing and Fieldfare continues en mass across the UK - report your sightings here.