Monday, 14 August 2017

London's raptor success story

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon at Rainham today.
Over the years, birds of prey have got a pretty raw deal in Britain, from pesticides in the Sixties to persecution since historical times. That some species such as Hen Harrier remain persecuted today is literally criminal, but thankfully we can take hope from the restored fortunes of others.

Common Buzzards are now widespread in the lowlands as well as the uplands, and Red Kites are thriving where reintroduced populations such as those in the Chilterns and East Midlands have been left in peace. But the raptor comeback most evident in London is arguably that of the Peregrine Falcon, a species hard to find in the capital 30 years ago but now breeding in the heart of the city.

Note the green colour ring bearing the code 'BR' on the left leg.

As recently as 2004 there were just four known pairs, but according to the latest London Bird Report that number had risen to 25 pairs within 10 years; an impressive 48 young were raised in 2015. From Parliament to the periphery of the London Area, Peregrines can be seen standing sentinel or pursuing pigeons, and also – as at Rainham, where I took these photos – occasionally giving excellent views.

The fledgling falcon makes its feelings known while having its ring fitted back in May (photo by Dave Morrison).
This bird is a juvenile, and only when downloading images did I realise it had a colour ring. White on green BR was hatched not far away on the Kent side of the river, and local Peregrine expert Dave Morrison reports that it was ringed on 18 May (metal ring number GR38697). It was attracting a lot of unwanted attention from the local Carrion Crows, and only when it was flying away and landing did I notice one of its inherent defence strategies – a ‘false face’ pattern clearly visible on the back of the head. Quite a few species show such patterns, notably owls but also species as diverse as bustards and European Crested Tit, but in Peregrines it is only present in juvenile plumage – after which the black-hooded adults are presumably more than capable of looking after themselves.

Note the 'false face' pattern on the back of the bird's head.
Thanks to Dave Morrison for permission to use his photo.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing event to have witnessed, such a beautiful bird. Thanks for the share, keep up the posts!
    Greg

    ReplyDelete

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