There’s no mystery why this is such a popular bird and so ubiquitous in popular culture, from the gritty film classic “Kes” to the children’s story “Windhover” beautifully illustrated by Christian Birmingham. The distinctive way it hunts, hovering suspended in one spot, is impressive enough, but then you learn that its eyes are adapted to see ultra-violet light, such as that emitted by mice and vole urine, which consequently forms a helpful trail to such prey. As with most raptors, and unlike most other birds, the female is larger than the male. This may be so that the female, who does the bulk of the parenting, is well-equipped to deal with threats to the eggs and young, such as from crows and other raptors, or it may be because the pair will look for different prey. A falconer who seemed to know his stuff once told me that many British birds of prey are actually bigger than their North American equivalents, which is an interesting inversion of the usual trans-Atlantic comparison.
Photo by Pixabay