The Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is a beautiful bird, I think few would argue, but man-o-man what an ugly alarm call. I have been diversifying to a degree of late, moving away from my usual fair of Owls and Kestrels to the more regal Peregrine. Sitting atop their food chain has instilled a confidence to the species which other smaller raptors lack. Whenever I approach a nest site, the resident pair circle and berate my intrusion with their alarm calls. As with Barn Owls and Kestrels, ruined builds are an important nesting site for the species. Before entering into this field of work I would never have imagined or probably of have noticed the sheer number of ruined castles, mansions and cottages in the country. This second life of the buildings, makes them of great conservation importance. Fledgling Peregrines below.
The inside of a Peregrine occupied ruined building, is a veritable who’s who of the local avian community. The ground under foot crackles, with the crunch of miscellaneous bones of past meals. Although Peregrines are often implicated as racing pigeon glutens, Jackdaw carcases in my experience make up a large chunk of the diet. This is an unsurprising chose on the part of the Peregrines, due to the fact that Jackdaws are often also in residence in the ruins.
A lot of fiction surrounds Peregrines and the speeds which they can reach during a stoop while hunting. Let me try and clear this up, between 160km and 410km has been suggested by various authors. The truth is that birds have been seen to reach speeds of 200km and that speeds of 240km are theoretically possible for the species! During the stoop, Peregrines drop from a great height, folding their wings back and slightly away from their bodies, creating a tear drop shape. The unsuspecting prey is often killed in the midair collision, with the Peregrine’s talons aiming for the head. If the prey is still alive after collision, it is dispatched on the ground with the beak.
Peregrines are a real success story; with the changes in the laws controlling the use of pesticides the species is making a comeback. Being both an urban and rural species, a close encounter with a Peregrine could be just around the corner, why not keep an eye out in your local patch for this sleek speedster.