Urban Peregrines

The combined effects of the Second World War and the widespread introduction of certain new pesticides brought the Peregrine close to extinction in the mid 1960’s. It was only after overcoming much opposition from some of the country’s biggest chemical manufacturers, that the worst of these pesticides were banned and from the early 1970’s a slow recovery began.

This was a time when modern buildings, very much higher than their predecessors, were springing up all over the country and many of these offered attractive new nesting places, despite their distance from traditional eyries in mountainous areas or on coastal cliffs.

It took time, at first, for any of these new “Urban” sites to be occupied and at the time of the 1991 National Peregrine Census, only 7 were in use for nesting. By the next census, in 2002, the total had grown to 62, and this level of increase has continued to this day. The following is a list of examples showing typical structures which are in use:-

  • Cathedral - Liverpool
  • Warehouse - Liverpool Docks
  • Gasometer - Southport
  • Block of Flats - Glasgow
  • Forth Rail Bridge - Queensferry
  • Chemical Plant - Mossmoran
  • Power Station - Eggborough
  • Power Station - Cottam
  • Water Tower - Burton on Trent
  • Church of St Michaels - Exeter
  • Cathedral - Salisbury
  • Pylons - Southampton Water
  • Vodaphone Mast - Southampton
  • Steel Works - Llanwern
  • Warehouse - Fort Dunlop
  • Grain Silo - Kings Lynn
  • Cathedral - Norwich
  • Orwell Bridge - Ipswich
  • Sussex Heights - Flats Brighton
  • Refinery - Isle of Grain
  • Charing Cross Hospital - Fulham
  • Residential Block - City of London

Interestingly, some urban sites soon formed themselves into clusters, two of which surrounded Liverpool and Southampton.

Subsequently, the big London Natural History Society recording area, (which extends out from St. Paul’s Cathedral for twenty miles in all directions,) became a comparatively late starter. From a population of only 2-3 pairs in 2001, London’s Urban Peregrines has now grown to no less than 30+ pairs in 2014.

It is important to note that nesting sites and their birds could be ejected to provide for industrial/residential developments but can often be relocated.

Nowadays, in this case special efforts are often made to find a suitable alternative. A good example of this recently occurred at Southport, where Peregrines have been successfully encouraged to transfer to the roof of Holy Trinity Church in preparation for the forthcoming closure of the town’s gas works.

One other important part of the Urban Peregrine story is that modern and well planned nest boxes/tray’s, together with reliable weather protection, good feeding and breeding facilities make very comfortable homes.

'Armed' with CCTV and possibly transmitted throughout the breeding season, the life of the Peregrine at the nest can be seen in close-up as never before.

DJC 18.10.2014

'I would like to say a big thank you to my friend Denis Corley for this article' David Morrison.