Your Birding Month

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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