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Rarities

A number of additional species of raptor and owl have been recorded in the UK and anything can turn up! Some are genuine vagrants – wild birds outside of their natural/normal distribution. Others are escapes from captivity. This is further complicated by the large number of birds of prey (and hybrids) kept for falconry and so even birds from other continents can, and do, turn up. Birds that have been free of captivity for some time may lose their jesses and act in a very natural way.

Genuine Vagrants

Egyptian VultureEgyptian Vulture. Photo Luke Delve

Egyptian Vulture. Neophron percnopterus

First record: immature, Somerset, October 1825. Last recorded in 1868.

2 individuals.

 

Short‐toed Eagle. Circaetus gallicus

First record: first‐calendar‐year, Isles of Scilly, October 1999.

3 individuals.

 

Greater Spotted Eagle. Aquila clanga

First record: Cornwall, December 1860. Last recorded 1915.

12 individuals.

 

Northern Harrier (8)Northern Harrier. Photo Luke Delve Northern Harrier. Circus hudsonius

First record: first‐calendar‐year, Isles of Scilly, October 1982, present until June 1983.

8 individuals.

This is the North American equivalent of Hen Harrier and was thought to be a subspecies before being given full species status.

 

Pallid Harrier. Circus macrourus

First record: male, Shetland, April to May 1931.

87 individuals.

This was an extremely rare species, but alongside its range expansion westwards into Europe it has become a more regular visitor.

 

Black Kite (2)Black Kite. Photo Luke Delve

 Black Kite. Milvus migrans

Regular but scarce visitor.

Juvenile Red Kites, which lack the bright red colouration and deeply forked tail are often mistaken for this species, but genuine vagrants are recorded.

 

Lesser Kestrel. Falco naumanni

First record: Kent, May 1877.

19 individuals.

A southern European sister species to the familiar Kestrel. This colonially nesting bird is threatened in its natural range and vagrants are becoming ever less likely.

 

American Kestrel. Falco sparverius

First record: male, Shetland, May 1976.

2 individuals.

 

Red footed Falcon (7)Red footed Falcons. Photo Su Delve  Red‐footed Falcon. Falco vespertinus

Scarce but regular overshooting migrant. This beautiful and sociable falcon is a migrant and individuals turn up in most years.

 

Amur Falcon. Falco amurensis

One record: male, East Yorkshire, September to October 2008.

 

Eleonora's Falcon. Falco eleonorae

First record: second‐calendar‐year, Merseyside, August 1977.

7 individuals.

 

Gyr Falcon. Falco rusticolus

Rare but regular winter visitor.

 

Scops Owl. Otus scops

First record: West Yorkshire, spring 1805.

84 individuals.

 

Snowy Owl. Bubo scandiacus

First record: Unst, Shetland, 1812.

Sometimes long-term resident on northern islands. Has bred on Shetland. As Arctic breeding birds are dependent on populations of Lemmings, Snowy Owls can be eruptive and can turn up anywhere in a poor Lemming year.

 

Hawk Owl. Surnia ulula

First record: Shetland, December 1860

4 individuals.

 

Tengmalm's Owl. Aegolius funereus

First record: Northumberland, January 1812.

57 individuals.

 

Other birds have derived from captivity, either deliberate (some people release birds if they become difficult or aggressive) or more usually accidentally. Some falconry birds go absent. Often these valuable birds carry transmitters allowing them to be relocated and, hopefully, recaptured.

Many of these escaped birds will not survive long ‘in the wild’, due to their lack of hunting skills but if they survive past the initial danger period they can thrive. Some species, most notably Red-tailed Hawk, Harris Hawk and Eagle Owl, have even gone on to breed in this country.

At any given time there are a number of known birds at liberty in the countryside. 

As a snapshot, as well as captive, escaped individuals of naturally occurring species such as Peregrine and Barn Owl, at the time of writing the following species were known to have escaped:

Red-tailed Hawk (l), Lanner Falcon, American Kestrel, Harris Hawk (r), Eagle Owl, Mexican Striped Owl and Chaco Owl.

Red tailed Hawk Red tailed Hawk. Photo Su Delve

Pensthorpe Medieval 30A captive Harris Hawk. Photo Su Delve.

Alongside these are several falconry hybrids:

Perlin (Peregrine x Merlin), Gyrsaker (Gyr Falcon x Saker), Gyrperesaker (Gyr x Peregrine x Saker), Perelanner (Peregrine x Lanner), Peresaker (Peregrine x Saker) and Harris Hawk x Red-tailed Hawk.

Saker Banham 2014 6A captive, falconer's Saker falcon. Photo Luke Delve 

If you find an escaped bird, or if you see an unusual species, you can check or report the bird to www.independentbirdregister.co.uk/website/home.html