Your Birding Month
Birds to find this month include Sabine’s Gull, Redstart and Barred Warbler
Before World War II, there were perhaps 1,000 pairs of Peregrines in the UK. The war took a massive toll, though, as the perceived threat of the falcons to carrier pigeons bringing vital messages, led to deliberate, legalised extermination. More than 600 birds were killed and many nests destroyed, and the population was effectively halved. Though they made a decent post-war recovery, the plague of organo-chlorine agrichemicals in the early 1960s was to deal another terrible blow to the UK’S Peregrines, with the already reduced population having only 16% breeding success. The ban of DDT and similar chemicals was vital in the recovery of the falcon’s population, and by the 1990s there were already more Peregrines than before the war. Roll on a further 30 years or so, and these majestic birds now have a British population of some 1,500 pairs and growing. Peregrines are now breeding in cities across the country, as well as the sea-cliffs and uplands ‘traditionally’ occupied. Peregrines are all about power and speed, and they look powerful and speedy even when perched. The flight profile is classically ‘anchor shaped’, with a deep chest, thick set, shortish tail and broad-based pointed wings. They are larger, chunkier and shorter tailed than Kestrels, and much more thickly set than rakish, ‘Swift-like’ Hobbies. And they are much deeper chested and larger than Merlins. They are specialist bird hunters, and all that power is to chase down speedy prey such as waders, ducks and pigeons. Females are notably bigger and more robust than males. Plumage-wise, they are similar though, with steel-blue-grey backs, black heads and moustaches, and finely barred breast.