City centre hunters
Wherever you travel, one of the world’s most iconic birds of prey can now be seen in the middle of our biggest conurbations
One of the most extraordinary developments in birdwatching in the last three decades has been the colonisation of our city centres by the Peregrine, the fastest living thing on earth. In his column this month, on Central London, David Lindo talks about how these highvelocity raptors have taken up residence in the centre of the capital – as well as the well-known breeders on the Tate Modern building, others take advantage of the ready availability of prey (especially Feral Pigeons) in the many parks and squares. But it’s not just London. Many of Britain’s cities and larger towns now have their own Peregrines, with cathedrals proving to be a favourite nest site (for example, in Norwich, Chichester, Derby, and at York Minster). In fact, any building with ledges and crevices that ‘mimic’ the Peregrine’s natural breeding habitat of cliffs is likely to be used, so power stations and quarries outside cities (but still in lowland areas previously considered unsuitable for the species) are also popular. Adaptation You won’t be surprised to learn that this adaptation is far from just a British phenomenon, either. Peregrines use churches and other city centre buildings right around the world, with New York providing probably the most extraordinary example. Peregrines had effectively become extinct on the east coast of the USA, for the same main reason that they had become scarce here (indirect poisoning by pesticide use), and a population had to be re-established using released falconers’ birds. These birds – from a variety of subspecies – have now effectively formed a new subspecies of their own, with the manmade canyons of the Big Apple as their home. So, whichever town or city you’re in, take David Lindo’s advice, and look up – there’s a good chance that this superb raptor will be above you.
Peregrines at the nest-site