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Cairngorms wildlife


Birds of Prey & Owls Cairngorms National Park

In Brief Birds of prey are, to some enthusiasts, the most fascinating of all the avian species. Also known as 'raptors' they hunt in flight, often swooping down from great heights to snatch prey using uniquely-developed senses, especially the power of vision. The king of all these meat-eaters is the golden eagle, which will even target small deer. One of the most spectacular birds of prey is the osprey: it's an awesome sight, the male plucking a 14lb salmon from a loch. Scotland's commonest bird of prey is the buzzard, now widespread around the Cairngorms area. The golden eagle is another very special resident to the Cairngorms, and while numbers of this spectacular hunter are low, they can been seen in high grounds and over mountain peaks. Owls are common in Scotland, but being nocturnal they are often only heard rather than seen - especially the young! They are solitary creatures but do like a good conversation now and again...

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Bird Group Page Birds of Prey 48 Game Birds 62 Gulls & Terns 72 Non - Passerines Birds 82 Passerines Birds 94 Wading Birds & Waterfowl 160


Birds of Prey & Owls Karlos Lomsky

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Buzzard Buteo buteo

Green

Conservation Status: LC = Least Concern

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

51 to 57 cm. 110 to 130 cm. Large black hooked bill. Lays 2 to 4 eggs. 33 to 35 days. 8 years Nests in trees. Dark brown with pale heads and breasts and dark wingtips.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief The buzzard is the most common bird of prey in the UK. It breeds in woodland and hunts over open land. It doesn't form flocks or live in social groups, but on occasions several may be seen together. This broad-winged raptor has a wide variety of plumages but all have the same features and it can often be confused with the similar rough-legged buzzard or the distantly related honey buzzard, which mimics the common buzzard's plumage for a degree of protection from other birds of prey, such as the goshawk.

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Eating Habits Buzzards feed mainly on a diet of small mammals, birds and carrion When to see it Buzzards can be seen all year round throughout the Loch Lomond area, as they do not migrate to warmer climes. Where to see it in the Park Buzzards can be seen flying around farmland, open moorlands above fields or over wooded hills and thick forests. They like trees and hilly crags for nesting, but open farmland and moorland for hunting and feeding.


Birds of Prey

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Amber

Conservation Status: VU = Vulnerable

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

75 to 82 cm. 204 to 220 cm. Large black hooked bill. Lays 1 to 2 white eggs. 43 to 45 days. 32 years Nest high on rock faces. Dark black or brown with white markings and a golden-buff crown.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief The golden eagle is a huge bird of prey with an average wingspan of over two metres - only the whitetailed eagle is larger. With its long broad wings and tail, it has a different outline from the smaller buzzard. The bird like to soar high and glide on air currents, holding its wings in a shallow 'V' shape. Eagles have traditional territories and nesting places, which may be used by many generations. They have been persecuted in the past and are still occasionally poisoned, their nests often robbed for highly-illegal private collections.

Eating Habits Their prey includes rabbits, hares and mice - sometimes birds, foxes and young deer. Large mammals like adult deer will only be taken if they are wounded or sick. When to see it Although not easy to see, golden eagles are resident all year round and do not migrate. Where to see it in the Park These magnificent birds live in wild, open moorlands and over mountain plateaus favouring remote glens while avoiding large areas of forestry.

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Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

Green

Conservation Status: LC = Least Concern

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

48 to 62 cm. 135 to 165 cm. Short dark hooked bill. Lays 2 to 4 eggs. 35 to 38 days. 19 years Nests in trees. Males are blue-grey above and barred grey below. The larger female is slate grey above and grey below.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief Goshawkare are a widespread species and can be found in many parts of the northern hemisphere. In Britain the goshawk became extinct in the 19th century because of specimen collectors and persecution by gamekeepers, but in recent years it has come back via immigration from Europe, escaped falconry birds, and deliberate releases.

Eating Habits It hunts birds and mammals in woodland, relying on surprise as it flies from a perch or hedge-hops to catch its prey unaware. Animals as large as hares and pheasant are aften on the menu.

Simular in size to a buzzard, the goshhawk is rather difference in apperance with its distinctive bluegrey back, short broad wings and grey or off-white underbody. They also have a short hooked bill.

Where to see it in the Park This species nests in trees, building a new nest each year. They are best spotted in and around woodlands and forests but can also be seen hunting in open countryside.

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When to see it Goshawks are resident in the park all year round and do not migrate.


Birds of Prey

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus

Red

Conservation Status: T = Threatened

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

44 to 52 cm. 100 to 120 cm.. Hooked yellow & dark. Lays 4 to 6 blue eggs. 29 days. 16 years. Nests in the ground. Males are pale grey, and females are brown with a white rump.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief The hen harrier is the most intensively persecuted of all the UK's birds of prey - its effect on the number of grouse available to shoot is still very much the cause of the conflict which threatens its survival in parts of Britain. It's restricted to heather moorlands, usually below 500m, where there are old, deep heather fields for it to nest in. Young conifer plantations are also favoured by harriers. Moors managed for grouse shooting are so attractive to hen harriers because they have vegetation of mixed ages.

Eating Habits Harriers feed mainly on small rodents such as mice. They also eat small, easily caught birds. When to see it The hen harrier is resident in Scotland, and especially the Cairngorm area, all year round. Where to see it in the Park Hen harriers live and breed in areas of low vegetation and can be found on upland moorlands. During the winter months, the birds will venture down to lower areas around farms and open heather lands.

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Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Amber

Conservation Status: VU = Vulnerable

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

32 to 35 cm. 71 to 80 cm. Short drak and hooked. Lays 3 to 6 eggs. 27 to 29 days. 15 years. Nest on cliffs and ledges. Males have light reddish brown backs and wings. and a grey-blue head.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behaviour: hovering at a height of around 10-20m over open country and swooping onto their prey. Once a very familiar sight, with its pointed wings and long tail, hovering beside a roadside verge, kestrels have been declining as a result of habitat degradation due to continuing intensive management of farmland. Females tend to be bigger than the males and have a brown head and upper body with black spots compared with the male's grey-blue coloured head.

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Eating Habits Kestrels require a slight headwind in order to hover, hence a local name of windhover for the common kestrel. Their ability to spot prey is enhanced by being able to see ultraviolet, which is strongly reflected by vole urine. Kestrels feed usually on small mammals, lizards or large insects. When to see it Kestrels are resident all year. Where to see it in the Park Habitats vary from moorland to heathland. They can also survive in towns, villages and even cities.


Birds of Prey

Merlin Falco columbarius

Amber

Conservation Status: VU = Vulnerable

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

25 to 30 cm. 50 to 62 cm. Small hooked brown bill. Lays 4 to 5 spotted eggs. 28 to 32 days. 12 years. Nests in ground hollows. Females are brown with light streaks. Males have grey upper and white streaked under parts.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief The merlin, which is known as the pigeon hawk in North America, is the UK's smallest bird of prey. This compact, dashing falcon has relatively long, square-cut tail and rather broad-based pointed wings, shorter than those of other falcons. Its small size enables it to hover and hang in the breeze as it pursues its prey. In winter UK numbers increases, most of the Icelandic population of merlins migrating here as it's warmer. Males are smaller than the females and, although recovering from a decline in late 20th century, they are still a vulnerable species.

Eating Habits Merlins feed on small birds and hunt by flying low. They will also feed on insects, small mammals and reptiles. When to see it UK populations of merlins are resident all year. Where to see it in the Park Merlins tend to breed in upland heather moorland, with some birds breeding in the edge of conifer plantations. They usually leave their upland breeding areas between August and October returning in April and May.

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Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Amber

Conservation Status: VU = Vulnerable

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

55 to 58 cm. 145 to 170 cm. Dark hooked bill. Lays 2 to 3 yellow eggs. 37 to days. 20 years. Nest high up in trees. White underbody, white wings with a black patch and brown upper body.

In the Park Summer months

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In Brief This medium large raptor is a specialist fish-eater. It's an unusual bird with no close relatives, and was thought to have become extinct as a British breeding species after 1916. Only in 1954 did it return to breed. Ospreys favour areas with Scots pine forests, fresh water lochs and rivers. Seen in flight from below, it has white or slightly mottled under-parts. The long wings are angled, bending at the 'wrist', which has a black patch contrasting with the white wing linings, and at a distance it could be mistaken for a large gull.

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Eating Habits Ospreys can often be seen fishing for trout or salmon over rivers and lochs. When to see it This magnificent predator is only resident in the spring/summer and usually arrives in the Cairngorms area around April, after migrating north from Africa where it winters. Where to see it in the Park See them at Loch Garten Osprey Centre or over numerous lochs such as Loch Insh, Loch an Eilein and over fish farms and rivers.


Birds of Prey

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Amber

Conservation Status: VU = Vulnerable

Length Wingspan Bill Eggs Incubation Lifespan Nesting Plumage

39 to 50 cm. 95 to 115 cm. Dark tipped and hooked. Lays 3 to 4 eggs. 28 to 32 days. 18 years. Nests on rock faces. Blue-black backs, white chest, dark head with white chin and cheek patches.

In the Park Resident all year

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In Brief The peregrine is a large and powerful falcon. It has long, broad, pointed wings and a relatively short tail. It is blue-grey above, with a blackish top of the head and an obvious black 'moustache' that contrasts with its white face. Peregrines have suffered persecution from gamekeepers and landowners throughout the UK and have been a target for egg collectors, but better legal protection and control of pesticides (which indirectly poisoned many of them) have helped the population to recover considerably from a very low population in the 1960s.

Eating Habits Peregrines feed on medium-sized birds, such as wading birds, pigeons and small ducks. When to see it Peregrines are resident and do not migrate to warmer countries. Some, particularly females and juveniles, move away from the uplands in autumn. Where to see it in the Park Peregrines can be seen around cliffs and over rocky crags. They can also often been found in rocky quarries where they will nest high up and away for predators.

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wildlife Cairngorms