Day 25: Continuing a theme from the past two years, Close Up, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper. These Close up days will be on Fridays for 2021!
Today’s Close Up will be all about the fastest bird in the world – the peregrine falcon.
In the 19th and 20th centuries numbers of peregrine falcons declined rapidly due to persecution from humans and the introduction of pesticides such as DDT. The use of DDT increased adult mortality and caused the thinning of egg shells, resulting in many breaking and the parents unable to breed. By the 1960’s 80% of the UK peregrine population had been lost! There was another population decline in the 1990’s but the cause is unknown. Since these dark days the numbers of peregrines are slowly increasing, and city residents are faring better than their countryside brethren.
In the past, peregrines were found in the north and west of the UK, however in recent years they have been spreading south. They do not migrate and most stay within 100km of their hatching. The peregrine is our largest falcon, and can reach speeds of up to 200mph as they stoop or dive for its prey.
In cities they prey on pigeons but have a wide and varied diet from garden birds to wading birds. They are very territorial and nest on cliff ledges but in cities nest on tall structures, such as cathedrals. The breeding season begins in March-April and the female will lay 3-4 eggs with incubation up to a month. The male will provide food. The chicks take up to two months to be independent and up to a third will reach breeding age. The lifespan of a peregrine is around five years. 20% of the European population of peregrines live in the UK. The main threat to peregrines is illegal persecution especially on grouse moors.
Have you seen a peregrine falcon? I briefly spotted one on a walk a few years ago at Raven Crag, the Lake District.
Thanks for reading, and stay wild!