Dr Emily Joachim is smitten with raptors of all kinds and hopes you will be too. Here, she provides a guide to 17 raptors you could see in Wiltshire, plus a bird with honorary raptor status.


(Accipiter gentilis)

This powerful hawk is revered as a symbol of strength. Bulkier looking than a sparrowhawk, its broad wings and long tail enable rapid acceleration and incredible manoeuvrability when flying between trees. Adults have brown-grey upperparts, pale-buff underparts with dark barring, a barred tail, orange eyes and powerful talons. Goshawks mainly eat crows, rooks, rabbits and wood pigeons. You are more likely to spot this elusive woodland bird in late winter and early spring; this is when they perform their stunning aerial displays above trees. Once persecuted to extinction in England, the goshawk is now a rare resident breeder in Wiltshire following reintroductions.

(Pandion haliaetus)

This regal fish-eating raptor has dark-brown upperparts, a pale crown, staring yellow eyes, white underparts with a dark chest band, a barred tail and an amazing 160cm wingspan. A scarce migrant in Wiltshire, spring and autumn are the best times to spot ospreys. They have been seen catching fish in Shearwater and other lakes on passage, and flying over Salisbury Plain. An exciting osprey translocation project began in Poole Harbour this summer to help re-establish a south coast breeding population of this glorious bird. Once established, it is hoped they will slowly expand their range into neighbouring counties. It would be amazing to have breeding ospreys in Wiltshire.

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