Over time you will see all sorts of birds visit your garden. This might even include birds of prey. Birds of prey are predators, they have a very varied diet and this sometimes includes other smaller birds.

You might be wondering if birds of prey eat other birds and what does this mean for the garden birds that eat at your bird feeder? Here is what you need to know about birds of prey, how to protect the birds in your garden and whether or not you should feed birds of prey.

What Is A Bird Of Prey?

A bird of prey is a predatory bird. This means they are carnivores that eat meat, such as rodents or smaller birds. They can vary in size and colour but they can all be distinguished by a hooked bill and sharp talons. They are also known as raptor birds.

Birds of prey are evolved for hunting which is why they have hooked bills and sharp talons and are generally faster than most birds.

Birds of prey found in England include:

  • Osprey
  • Red Kite
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Buzzard
  • Peregrine
  • Hobby
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Kestrel
  • Merlin

It’s unlikely that a bird of prey would ever attack a human unprovoked, but we recommend staying away from them if ever you come across one.

What Do Birds Of Prey Eat?

Birds of prey tend to hunt and catch wild prey. There are other, non-predator birds, that eat meat but these are generally scavengers like crows and don’t catch the prey themselves.

Birds of prey will generally prefer to catch their own food, but the type of prey they hunt and the diet they consume will vary depending on the region.

The bigger the bird, the bigger the prey. Some smaller birds of prey will settle for small rodents such as voles or mice. Larger birds of prey however are more likely to target bigger creatures, such as other birds, when they hunt.

Foods eaten by birds of prey include:

  • Fish – usually limited to coastal birds
  • Large insects – such as grasshoppers or beetles
  • Reptiles and amphibians – frogs, grass snakes, lizards
  • Mammals – small to medium mammals including mice, voles and rabbits
  • Birds – from small garden birds to larger ones such as pigeons
  • Carrion – not as common but some birds of prey will eat scavenged food

Birds of prey are very adaptable and can easily change their diet to survive in any environment. Luckily, birds of prey aren’t too strict about what they eat and will eat things outside their diet if they need to.

 How Can I Protect Other Birds From Birds Of Prey?

Birds of prey do eat other birds, including garden birds that you might enjoy feeding. We know it can be upsetting if this happens but we don’t recommend getting involved.

Protecting a smaller bird from a bird of prey can save a small bird, yes, but it means you are preventing the bird of prey from eating as well. We know it can be upsetting to lose a bird you’ve been feeding but this is a part of nature and we can’t interfere.

Don’t worry, it’s very unlikely a bird of prey will target any of the garden birds you feed. If this does happen, it’s probably a one time kill out of opportunity and the bird of prey will likely move on.

If you are worried about birds of prey hunting in your garden, or if it starts to happen more frequently, there are ways you can help.

Place your bird feeder in a covered location, like under a tree or near a wall. If the bird of prey doesn’t have a clear path to swoop down, they probably won’t bother and will move on.

In some cases, this can attract more garden birds to your bird feeder. Birds like to feel safe when they eat and the safer you can make the garden for your birds, the more likely they are to come back and attract others.

Should I Feed Birds Of Prey?

We wouldn’t recommend feeding a bird of prey that has come to your garden. Birds of prey are quick and adaptable hunters and will be able to find food without your help.

If however, it has been an especially hard winter and you can see the bird is searching and struggling to find food, then you can feed them.

Birds of prey can eat most raw meats sold in the supermarket, or they can eat mice sold in pet shops. Leaving raw meat out can attract other pests and scavengers like cats, rats and other birds of prey. Leaving raw meat for too long can cause it to rot and smell, so always consider this before feeding a bird of prey.

For an amazing account from someone who does feed birds of prey in their garden, take a look at the blog of Robert Fuller, a wildlife artist who routinely feeds Kestrels in his garden.