Wildlife camera provides window on to Tartu's most famous goshawk pair

Northern Goshawk and a nestful of growing chicks, in late May 2022.
Northern Goshawk and a nestful of growing chicks, in late May 2022. Source: RMK

A nesting pair of northern goshawks and their chicks can be watched 24/7 thanks to a wildlife camera installed close to their eyrie, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported Tuesday.

The camera is operated by the state forest management center, the RMK, on whose land the birds of prey have decided to nest – land which is in fact well inside Tartu city limits, in the Annelinn district.

An excerpt of footage is below.

While urban foxes and hares are a common sight in Estonia, the northern goshawk pair has nested in the same Annelinn spot for the past two springs, despite the noise emanating from RMK machinery on the ground, just around 14m below the birds, named Ruudi and Alla.

While generally thought of as a species whose usual habitat is deep in the forest, or in rural areas generally, Ruudi and Alla seem wholly urbanized.

The birds even fly into the nearby Pirogov park, a favorite haunt of students. which lies across town and on the other side of the Emajõgi River, and were unperturbed when crowds numbering as many as 60,000 filed past the nesting site going to and from a Metallica concert – nor by the thrash metal outfit's live music either, ornithologist Urmas Abel told AK.

"Another time, Ruudi quite happily flew 7km away and sat for a full 24 hours on greenhouses in [the village of] Luunja," Abel said.

Two other northern goshawk pairs are known to nest in the Tartu area, while the species was observed in and near Tallinn as long ago as the early 2000s.

Zoologist Tiit Hunt told AK that: "Last year, 25 pairs of northern goshawks nested in Tallinn and its environs. The reason that they have moved into the city, it can be assumed, is due to taking the line of least resistance. "

"Why do humans move to the city? It is easier to live here, at least in some ways. This is also the case for goshawks, as pigeons, jackdaw, thrushes and crows are there for the taking," he went on, referring to a northern goshawk's typical prey.

Urmas Abel added that the sight in Tartu at least would have been a rare one, until recent years.

He remembers his first sighting well. "The goshawk was sitting on a branch, with her head tucked under her wing, simply sleeping. I filmed her on my cell phone from a distance of five meters. Four cubs were in the nest. This was the first 'Eureka' moment, one where a goshawk had come to nest near the Tartu city limits," he said.

Abel noted how fast the bird flies, to the extent that they can be hard to identify when first spotted.

The birds also tend to have a larger brood of chicks (pictured) than their more rural counterparts, largely due to the more abundant food supply, AK reported.

Since Ruudi and Alla had their first clutch of eggs from March 27, we can expect the same later this month.

The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a species of medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, widely distributed across much of Eurasia and North America.

The RMK camera live-link is below.

Urban birds of prey are not unheard of in other, often vastly larger conurbations. For instance, around breeding peregrine falcons in the London area are estimated to number around 40, according to this BBC report.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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