Backyard Buddies
Raptors

Photo: Shane Ruming

Raptors

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A surprising number of raptors live in suburbs and even the centres of Australian cities. They do an excellent job of keeping down pest species such as mice and grasshoppers, as well as introduced birds such as starlings and feral pigeons.

Here are some of the most common raptors you're likely to see near your home:

Australian Kestrel (also called Nankeen Kestrel): Being nomadic, it will appear wherever mice and grasshopper plagues occur. As with all members of the Falcon family of raptors, it doesn't build a nest but uses the old nests of other birds, tree hollows, or buildings. They live all over Australia including on coastal islands.

Brown Falcon: this scruffy looking bird with its distinctive short 'trousers' is the noisiest Australian falcon. This species hunts mammals (especially rabbits) and birds but is also something of a snake hunting specialist. It lives all over Australia and paler coloured birds are often confused with the Australian Kestrel.

Little Falcon (also called Australian Hobby): you'll probably see more of these in the suburbs than in the bush, because their favourite food is the starling. In the evening, they use street lighting to help them snag insects.

Brown Goshawk: this species tends to be more secretive than other urban raptors and is the only one likely to be seen hunting in bushes. A pattern of fine dark lines on the spread out wings and tail is visible when the bird is in flight.

Peregrine Falcon: so urbanised is this bird that peregrines nest on buildings in most Australian capital cities. They do an excellent job of keeping down the local feral pigeon population.

What you can do

The Australasian Raptor Association says young raptors often blow out of their nest onto the ground. In such cases, the best thing is to return them to the nest but if  not possible, the parents will look after them on the ground until they are able to fly. Their biggest threat is from dogs and cats, so try to keep your pets indoors if you know that a family of raptors is nesting nearby.

Thanks to the Australasian Raptor Association for help with this story.

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