We welcome contributions to this Blog from people with many different points of view and would like to take this opportunity to discuss certain points that have been made, regarding the perceived threats of peregrines, in particular with regard to racing pigeons and local breeding bird populations.
As discussed previously, peregrines are protected by law. They are rare and threatened by man in the wider countryside. The last few years have seen a rise in the number of thefts and damage to peregrine nests from egg collectors. The number of incidents involving young and adult birds being stolen or killed has also risen. It is a myth that their UK population is high. It is only just recovering to pre-1940’s levels, when their numbers crashed due to damage by pesticides that caused thinning of egg shells and failure to hatch.
Peregrine falcons are wild birds; they choose their own nesting sites. They chose to nest on the ledge of the Newton building and were first discovered when the University was investigating building work. Later, when the university carried out the refurbishment, they provided the nestbox to allow the peregrines to continue to breed undisturbed – and to ensure the university and their contractors did not break the law.
Here in Nottingham, the peregrines’ presence will have a minimal impact upon local breeding bird populations as peregrines have large territories and travel over a large area to hunt. The birds are foraging well away from the town centre. In fact many of the species caught are northern UK or even migrant Scandinavian breeding birds caught as they migrate north along the River Trent.
Peregrines do not specialise on a single species or size of bird so there is a wide selection of possible prey species for them to catch. Recent studies have shown that a peregrine’s prey can vary from small goldcrests, to bigger great tits, thrushes, gulls, waders and ducks. Over 100 species have been recorded at the Derby Cathedral peregrine nest box site, and over 150 species at the one in Exeter. With such a wide range of species, racing pigeons are not especially targeted.
Peregrines also ‘discourage’ and drive out other birds of prey from the area, which would otherwise compete with them for food. In fact last year our pair in Nottingham were spotted chasing a red kite over the town centre.
We now have an opportunity for a wider audience to learn more about these beautiful birds. Our Peregrine Cam provides a privileged window into the private family life of this magnificent bird of prey. The webcam cameras allow people to see a side of the peregrine’s life that most would not see – from the comfort of their homes.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust