Published on April 4th, 2019 | by Sam Rose
Birds of Prey Special Stamps Soar into April!
Royal Mail are marking the start of April with a thrilling issue of some Birds of Prey Special Stamps!
Wildlife themes are certainly one that appear regularly on Royal Mail’s Special Stamps Calendar every year and 2019 is no exception with their Birds of Prey Special Stamps issue!
Each wonderous bird in this esteemed Birds Of Prey Special Stamps collection has been photographed by renowned British photographer, Tim Flach within the International Centre for Birds of Prey based at Boulsdon House, Newent in Gloucestershire, with each bird attributed with its own personal name.
Learn more about each fascinating species featured in this new Birds of Prey Special Stamps release below.
1st Class – White-tailed Eagle (named Rhombic Night)
This very large Eagle catches fish or sea birds with a low and slow approach, dropping its feet into the water to snatch their prey and then taking it to shore.
These Eagles were persecuted to extinction by 1918, but in 1975, a release programme was started on Rùm in Scotland.
The population in Scotland is now around 60 breeding pairs, containing over 200 adult birds. Since Eagles readily feed on carrion, they are often blamed for killing animals they are unlikely to kill.
Interestingly, the financial benefit to Scotland from tourists coming to photograph these stunning birds is approximately £5 million a year!
1st Class – Merlin (named Lintu)
The Merlin, which belongs to the Falcon family, is the smallest UK raptor. It can often be found during the spring and summer on the uplands, nesting on the ground underneath heather.
A specialist bird-catcher, it feeds its young on larks and meadow pipits in the summer. Females are brown, as are juveniles, while adult males have a blue/grey coloured back.
When the autumn arrives, these birds move to lowlands (in a partial migration) for winter. Since Merlins are fast, agile and small birds, they are not common to see.
1st Class – Hobby (named Killigray)
A bird much larger than the Merlin, this little Falcon will migrate to the UK from Africa in the spring in order to breed. With its long, sickle-shaped wings, it often resembles a giant Swift and is incredibly nimble in flight.
Feeding on dragonflies and other insects, the Hobby is often seen near large bodies of water and nests using abandoned crows’ nests.
During the breeding season, it hunts for Swallows and Swifts to feed its young.
Once the young can fly and hunt for themselves, Hobbies will migrate with the Swallows back to the continent of Africa.
1st Class – Buzzard (named Cowan Red)
By the 1970s, the common (or otherwise known as Eurasian) Buzzard was rare in the UK other than in the far west.
Since that point however, there has been a huge increase in this species thanks to more nesting areas and more rabbits surviving the disease, myxomatosis. Due to this, Buzzards are now breeding in every county of the UK.
Buzzards are usually seen on fine and clear days soaring and calling with a mewing cry. They can also be found sitting on poles, on fences by roads or on the ground, particularly when it has been ploughed in the winter.
These birds scavenge roadkill, which can cause them traffic injuries or to feed on insects on the ground. There is also an enormous colour variation in this species, from almost all cream to very dark brown.
1st Class – Golden Eagle (named Eve)
The Golden Eagle prefers to spend most of its time near remote moorlands and mountains in Scotland, usually nesting on cliff ledges.
It soars over the Highlands whilst catching rabbits, hares and birds with its very powerful feet. It also consumes carrion and, in some areas, is completely reliant on feeding on dead animals during the winter.
Amazingly, Golden Eagles will pair up for life. Of the two eggs that the female lays, one chick rarely survives with the other fledging after around three and a half months.
Juveniles of this species have a mottled white and brown tail with a black band which will turn brown over the years. The golden feathers that give these Eagles their name are located on their heads and on their necks too.
1st Class – Kestrel (named Thornton)
The Kestrel was once the UK’s most common raptor and was observed as hovering by roads and motorways. Sadly, this Falcon has seen a decrease of 40 per cent over the past two decades.
A key reason for this unfortunate decline is the lack of sufficient nest sites and suitable grasslands for hunting.
Kestrels are best characterised by a beautiful chestnut-red colour across their entire body. The female has a red tail with bars, while the adult male has a grey head and grey tail with a black band at its tip.
These birds are best known for hunting mice and voles by hovering and by often descending in stages in order to drop on their intended prey.
1st Class – Goshawk (named Death’s Door)
This aggressive, forest-dwelling hunter was probably regarded as extinct as a breeder until the middle of the 20th century.
Its wing shape allows it to twist and turn through trees and its long legs and powerful feet are well suited to hunting birds and mammals up to the size of a hare. This species often hunts with a short surprise attack.
Adult Goshawks are grey and white, with fine horizontal bars on the breast, while juveniles are brown with vertical brown stripes.
Goshawks build large stick nests and can lay up to four eggs. The parents are vocal in the spring and they can sometimes be seen soaring high during good weather.
1st Class – Sparrowhawk (named Aral)
This little Hawk can most commonly be seen in gardens catching small birds.
Its most defining features are very long and thin legs, along with its yellow eyes. The males of this species are tiny in comparison to females.
Both the males and females will hunt birds but females can take birds up to the size of a pigeon. The Sparrowhawk is often wrongly blamed for the demise of small birds.
Sparrowhawks build a stick nest and rear up to five young. The young grow swiftly and become independent by the age of 14 weeks, although only about a third are expected to survive their first year.
1st Class – Red Kite (named Muckle Roe)
By 1903, Red Kites had been persecuted close to extinction. The last few Red Kites remaining in were located in the mountains of Wales, when a farmer started to feed them.
Now, with four feeding stations, there are 900 pairs in Wales. There have been very successful translocation programmes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so Kites are now seen soaring together in many places.
Their long wings, long forked tail and red colour makes the Red Kite quite easy to identify. These birds are mainly scavengers, feeding on roadkill and animal remains.
They have small feet for their body size, which does limit the size and type of prey they can catch.
1st Class – Peregrine Falcon (named Fortina)
Brought to low numbers by pesticides in the middle of the 20th century, the Peregrine has now recovered dramatically.
Many Peregrines have now become urban birds, nesting on cathedrals, other tall buildings and bridges. Potentially regarded as the fastest living creature, the Peregrine can hunt birds up to the size of large Gulls. It does this almost always on its wing.
It has a short tail and long, pointed wings and the juveniles in this species are brown. The adults, however, have a grey/blue coloured back.
In the UK, these birds are sedentary, but Peregrines in other areas can be migratory. They are the most widely spread raptors worldwide.
Admire the Magnificence of Birds of Prey Special Stamps
All 10 exceptional Birds of Prey Special Stamps featuring Birds of Prey species in the UK are available in a sleek Birds of Prey Special Stamps Presentation Pack from the Post Office Shop. Written by the Director at International Centre of Birds of Prey and leading UK Birds of Prey expert, Jemima Parry-Jones MBE, this neat package provides defining characteristics on each UK Bird of Prey including:
- Variety of species
- Wing shapes
- More specifications on each featured Bird of Prey
Also released as part of this Birds of Prey Special Stamps issue are a set of ten Stamp Cards featuring an enlarged image of each of the individual stamps contained within this collection and a Framed Stamp Set which celebrates these spectacular Birds of Prey Special Stamps within a unique and stylish black box framed collectors piece.