Peregrine falcons like big stone things with knobbly bits

Peregrine falcons nest in big stone things with knobbly bits
Peregrine falcons nest in big stone things with knobbly bits

The kind of nesting site that peregrine falcons prefer are “big stone things with knobbly bits”. That’s according to Francis Hickenbottom of Wakefield Peregrine Project. And it’s the reason why peregrine falcons like cathedrals. They use cathedrals for nesting because they are big stone things with knobbly bits and ideal nesting sites.

They are unconcerned about what’s below. If they nest in a cliff there are crashing waves below but if they nest in a cathedral there is traffic and people and dangerous things on the ground where chicks can end up.

Nick Brown, a volunteer with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works among other areas at Derbyshire Cathedral. Last week there were three peregrine falcon chicks getting ready to fly and Nick Brown said that, “Almost every year one of them comes to ground and we have to dash down and save it from being run over by a bus”.

Volunteers at other churches and cathedrals face similar problems. Most cathedrals have installed cameras above the nests to keep an eye on them and the audience for the videos produced is greater than the congregation below inside the building!

Peregrine falcon numbers have risen dramatically over the years because of the banning of the pesticide DDT which decimated their numbers. They became virtually extinct in the 1960s and 1970s according to Brown.

DDT was banned in 1986 and there are now well over 1,700 breeding pairs.

Francis Hickenbottom of Wakefield Peregrine Project said:

“They like big stone things with knobbly bits. When they fly into a city and see a cathedral, that’s just another big stone thing with knobbly bits. They don’t care about what’s happening on the ground – whether it’s waves crashing into a cliff or traffic and sirens. It’s not part of their world.”

Some more

Peregrine falcons prefer high, secluded nesting sites that offer a clear view of the surrounding area. In natural habitats, these are typically:

  • Cliff faces
  • Rock outcrops
  • Mountain ledges

These locations provide peregrine falcons with a number of advantages for raising their young. The height of the nest site gives the falcons a good vantage point from which to spot prey. The seclusion of the site helps to protect the chicks from predators. And the clear view of the surrounding area allows the falcons to see approaching danger.

Interestingly, peregrine falcons have become increasingly adaptable in recent years. They have begun to nest on man-made structures in urban areas. These nesting sites include:

  • Skyscrapers
  • Cathedrals
  • Bridges

Peregrine falcons seem to be attracted to these urban sites for many of the same reasons that they are attracted to natural cliff faces. The height of the structures provides a good vantage point for spotting prey, and the seclusion of the ledges helps to protect the chicks from predators. In addition, urban areas often provide peregrine falcons with an abundance of prey, such as pigeons and other birds.

How fast?

Peregrine falcons are the undisputed speed champions of the animal kingdom. Their claim to fame lies in their incredible diving speed during hunting. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Normal Flight: During regular flight patterns, peregrine falcons travel at speeds between 40 and 60 mph (64 to 97 km/h).
  • Hunting Dive (Stoop): This is where things get mind-blowing. When hunting, peregrines take advantage of gravity and plummet towards their prey in a high-speed dive called a stoop. In these dives, they’ve been recorded reaching speeds exceeding:
    • 320 km/h (200 mph): This is a widely accepted benchmark for their diving speed.
    • 389 km/h (242 mph): The highest measured speed of a peregrine falcon according to a National Geographic program.

There’s even some theoretical calculations suggesting a possible limit of:

  • 400 km/h (250 mph) for low-altitude dives
  • 625 km/h (388 mph) for high-altitude dives

These are truly phenomenal speeds, making the peregrine falcon a formidable aerial predator. Their streamlined bodies, powerful muscles, and pointed wings all contribute to achieving these incredible velocities.

RELATED: Many of Africa’s large birds of prey are at risk of extinction

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