Latest Peregrine Diary Update
Tuesday 11th July
The cameras have now been switched off, as Rosie hasn’t been seen on the ledge for a while now, she’ll be far too busy exploring!
Friday 23rd June
Rosie the peregrine chick took her first flight last week and has shown that she is a very capable flyer. You’re not likely to see her on the cameras as often now as Rosie continues to explore her surroundings. There’s a good chance you’ll see her on the north side of the cathedral (opposite the Mecure Wessex Hotel), so don’t forget to look up when you’re walking by.
Photo credit: Steve Grundy
Scroll to 2023 Previous Peregrine Diary Updates to read previous diary updates from this year.
Monday 12 June
All is going well and Rosie has gained almost all of her brown feathers. The looks great – and really like a Peregrine at last. Because she has feathers she is keen to use them, so she will fly soon. The best place to stand if you want to see the Peregrines is on the north perimeter where you can see the Rose Window. The nest is just below.
A few people have asked for an explanation of food caching. Winnie and William sometimes cache a portion or a whole kill if they find themselves with too much food at one time. They will push it into a corner somewhere to use later, although usually they will pluck the prey and eat part of it immediately. Often a series of shrivelled-up wings and headless bodies are left abandoned in the gully and never used. It’s a bit grim in the gully already! William will mostly cache food to supply Winnie and the chicks. Occasionally he will take food that Winnie has cached, although he usually does so only once he has alerted her to his intentions using soft “chup” calls. Winnie is the boss!
Photo above taken by Steve Grundy.
Monday 5 June
Rosie is just over 4 weeks old now and is exploring the gully a lot more. It is impossible to have the second camera in the right place to always see her, so we have set it to show quite a wide shot. Don’t be worried if she completely disappears as the gully takes a turn to the left and she will go exploring on occasions.
Her feathers are appearing quickly and soon she will be brown all over. These feathers are covered by protective covers (called sheaths) as they emerge. This week’s photo shows the Rosie trying to cough up a pellet of undigested bits – mostly feathers and bone.
If you want to see Rosie in person, you’ll have to wait about 10 or so, and then she will appear on the gully wall, only taking first flights a few days after that. Winnie and William will drop food in and let her work out what to do for herself. Then the supply of food will reduce as Winnie tries to persuade Rosie to leave the gully. She will probably let Rosie see her carrying food and get them to chase her. This will persuade them to fly. It’s all part of the plan to get them to leave home.
Tuesday 30 May
Rosie is not only growing fast, but she also looks very different to last week as her brown feathers are now appearing. By the end of next week she should be completely brown, but right now she looks as if she is wearing an ermine gown! Maybe we should be calling her Lady Rosie?! She will now weigh over 1kg and probably a bit more than William, although still a lot less than Winnie. We are seeing her explore the gully quite a lot, and within a week she’ll be on the move more and more as walking become easier. The day when she takes her first jump up onto the gully wall is getting nearer. That is a tense time for all of us as she will start to negotiate walking on the wall. This will probably be in about ten days (maybe 11-13 June). Then a few days later she’ll try to fly – probably not until about 15-17 June. After that she will be trained by Winnie in the art of catching food. More about that in a couple of weeks.
Monday 22 May
Our specialist licensed ringers went into the gully on Friday and checked on our chick and gave it two rings. A small metal one that has its details on, and a bigger orange one that can be read at a distance. Our chick is fine, weighs over 800 grams already and is a female, which we’d guessed already by her size. Female Peregrines outgrow their male siblings rapidly, and even the smallest female is still larger than the biggest male.
Our chick will leave the tray soon, but right now she is getting a lot of attention from Winnie, which normally stops earlier than this because there is a constant demand for food. But with just one mouth to feed Winnie can spend lots of time with her chick. Winnie is at least 15 now – the point at which many female Peregrines cease to be fertile.
This touching photo of the two of them dozing on Sunday evening makes that all the more special. There is also a lovely photo of our chick taken by Nigel Jones when he visited the nest on Friday.
Photo credit: Nigel Jones
Monday 15 May
Our chick is now two weeks old and growing fast – indeed so fast that even Winnie is getting knocked around a bit by it! By now we would expect the chick to be alone a lot of the time, but as there is only one chick to feed, Winnie is letting William do most of the food collection. It’s been remarkably cold much of the time, so Winnie has been trying to keep the chick under her – but that is now almost impossible!
Friday is going to be a big day for the chick! We will check it over and carefully give it identification rings to allow its future life and journeys to be tracked. The camera will be off while we do this – just for a short time around 1000-1100 hrs.
This check is done under a government licence and the chick will get a small metal leg ring with its precise details and a larger orange plastic ring which has big letters and numbers that can be read using a telescope from a distance. We will also be able to try and work out what sex it is- and it’s likely to be a female because of its size – although it is getting all of the food, so that has made it bigger.
Because of this work we know where several of Winnie’s chicks have gone, and mostly they are within 50-100 miles of Winchester. We also know that Peregrines can live for up to 20 years and we recently saw a 13-year-old bird that had managed to survive undetected in all that time. We also know from these studies that around half of all Peregrine chicks don’t survive their first year. At least we will have a chance to know where Winnie and William’s chick goes to if it is spotted in the future.
Tuesday 9 May
Our baby Peregrine chicks is now nine days old and growing fast. Winnie has been taking very good care of it as the weather has been very un-springlike. But in a few days, when it is capable of thermo-regulating its temperature (basically being able to keep reasonably warm even if it’s a bit chilly out there) she will leave it alone while she hunts. Sometimes that means it will be sat alone for maybe one or two hours … sometimes longer. It’s normal – so don’t worry. Winnie will get fed up sitting on eggs that won’t hatch, but as we will be inspecting the chick next week, we can remove those.
If all goes well our chick will be running around the gulley in just over two weeks, and flying in four weeks. Time flies – and so will it!
This week’s photo shows William with the chick. It actually was just a moment in time, although he looks transfixed!
Wednesday 3 May
As it’s now three days since egg 1 hatched, we can be confident that the other eggs will not hatch now. Normally most Peregrine eggs hatch in a relatively short period of 24 hours, so these will not. Eventually as this chick grows Winnie will move them to one side. This chick will grow fast as it will get all of the food! The plus side of being an only chick is that it will not have to compete for food. On the negative side, Peregrines are highly intelligent and experiment in all kinds of ways in their early weeks, and they would benefit if with other chicks of the same age.
All being well, in 4-5 weeks this chick will leave the nest tray and start to explore up and down the gulley. About a week later we can expect to see it sitting on the wall of the gulley before taking a first flight. So its first public appearance will be in mid-June.
Sunday 30th April
The first chick has hatched.
Friday 28 April HATCHING EXPECTED THIS WEEKEND!
Winnie has been amazing at incubating her eggs for a month in all this really changeable weather. She has rarely left the nest and just occasionally for a quick feed while William took over covering the eggs. We are now one or two days away from the hatching of her eggs. They should hatch in the order they were laid, with eggs 1, 2 and 3 either on Saturday or Sunday and egg 4 maybe a day later. Sometimes the last egg does not get enough warmth to hatch, but Winnie is a very experienced Peregrine, so we hope she will hatch all of them. It has been so wet and cold in the last month that it is possible not all of the eggs will hatch, but we are all hoping they will. At least the weekend weather looks dry.
In the last day before the chicks break out Winnie will be quite edgy because they start calling from inside the unhatched eggs and she can hear them. Once they have hatched Winnie will eat the empty eggshells to get rid of them – but this also provides her with useful calcium.
Once the chicks are out of the eggs Winnie will be keeping them warm with William bringing in the food for her to rip up into small bits. For the next 10-14 days she’ll stay with them, and then she too will go hunting for prey as they grow fast, and no amount of food seems to be enough!
Wednesday 29 March
Winnie has now laid her fourth egg. She started incubating with the third egg (as expected), so this fourth egg will hatch about two days later than the other three which should all hatch within a few hours of each other. It is very rare for Peregrines to lay five eggs – although Winnie did this in 2020 and raised all of those chicks to the flying stage. So, we expect her to stop with four this year.
We expect these eggs to start hatching on 29 or 30 April.
Monday 27 March
Overnight Winnie laid her third egg, the second having arrived on Friday.
She is now into her incubation period which will see her keeping the eggs warm enough to allow the embryos to develop. There may still be a fourth egg to be laid later this week. Quite often that will never hatch as it is lagging two days behind all of the others.
William will occasionally cover the eggs when Winnie is away for short breaks – often first thing in the morning after along overnight shift
We can expect these eggs to hatch in the last week of April.
Wednesday 22nd March
Winnie has laid her first egg. Around 5-7 days later than usual.
Monday 20 March
Well Winnie is taking her time! We expected her to lay the first egg between 15-17 March and we are still waiting. She is roosting right next to the tray every evening now (see our night-time photo), so there is no doubt that she intends to lay soon.
Once she has laid the first egg, she will rarely cover it until she has added two more eggs – probably at two-day intervals. Winnie will then keep them warm non-stop. William will probably cover them when Winnie heads off for a break, often early in the morning, and again just before her overnight shift. The incubation period takes around one month, once it starts.
It often strikes us that it must be terribly boring for her, just sat there for hours looking straight ahead. Occasionally a pigeon will land on the wall in front of her – also as if it is making fun of her! She will probably doze off for much of the time.
Monday 13 March
This is the nail-biting week as Winnie usually lays her first egg between 15-17 March (so Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this week). Most Peregrine pairs that we can watch on cameras around the UK have not laid eggs yet, although in London there are several clutches. It’s worth remembering that being a big city, London’s temperatures are warmer than more rural areas because the sun’s rays are absorbed by hard surfaces such as buildings rather than by vegetation such as trees and plants. Radiation from our hard surfaces is released into the air as heat.
Winnie (pictured above) and William are visiting their Cathedral nest tray a bit more than a few weeks ago, which is what we expect, although their visits are still few compared to some years. Given the cold weather in the last week we think she’ll probably be in no rush to lay her eggs this year – but we still expect the first egg to appear this week. People always worry when they see the first eggs left uncovered. She will incubate them after she has laid the third egg. But she will cover them in wet weather. The second egg normally appears two or three days after the first one. Fingers crossed for eggs this week
Monday 6 March 2023
Welcome back to everyone who watched last year, and if you are new to this site, thank you for joining us. My name is Keith Betton and I am from the Hampshire Ornithological Society. I update this diary most weeks, and I run a team that monitors about 25 Peregrine nests in Hampshire – the most we have ever had.
Winnie and her new partner William are visiting the nest tray more and more as we get closer to egg-laying in the coming weeks. At this stage they can occasionally be seen bowing to each other, but in particular look out for them making a dent in the soft shingle. Either bird (but mostly Winnie) will push their breast against the shingle and push forward to make a dent. They do this most days – and apart from making the dent it reinforces their relationship with the nest.
Like all male Peregrines, William is smaller than Winnie, and he has more white on his cheeks. Mostly it is Winnie who is sat by the nest. On several occasions Winnie has been eating the gravel in the nest tray. Both birds do this to help clear any fatty deposits in their digestive tract that may be building up from the meat that they eat.
Last year Winnie laid her first egg on 15 March – which is within a day of when she laid in 2019 and 2020, although in 2021 she surprised us all by laying the first egg on 10 March!
I will share Peregrine facts with you each week, but feel free to ask questions about what you are seeing by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2022 Timeline of the Peregrines, written by Keith Betton, to wrap up the year:
- February to early March
Regular visits to the nest site by Winne and new male (William)
- 15 March 2022
Winnie lays her first egg
- 19 March
Winnie eats first egg – maybe it had a crack
- 20 March
Winnie lays a replacement egg
- 23 March
Winnie lays a second egg
- 28 March
Winnie lays a third egg
- 28 April 2022
Two chicks hatch. Third egg does not hatch.
- 23 May
The chicks are ringed under licence
XSC – female (Elizabeth)
XNC – male (George)
- 30 May
Chicks are busy exploring the gully
- 9 June
Male chick makes first flight
- 11 June
Female chick makes first flight
- Late-June into July
Regular flights by the chicks with the parents in the general area, and now rarely seen near the nest
Many thanks to Steve Grundy for sharing his excellent photos of the Peregrines flights (above).
On Tuesday 15th March 2022, Winnie laid her first egg. Everyone now has questions about our Peregrines, so I thought I’d create a Peregrine Q&A. I’ve tried to answer most things here but please fire away with further questions and I will add the answers. Feel free to ask extra questions – email@example.com
How long do Peregrines live?
Many live to be 10+ years old. The oldest we know of is 21. However, the mortality rate for young falcons is about 60%. This means that approximately 6 out of every 10 falcons hatched will die in its first year of life.
Do Peregrines mate for life?
Generally, they do keep the same mate from year to year. However, if a member of the pair dies, the surviving falcon may accept a replacement mate quite quickly.
Why is the male smaller than the female?
They both catch different prey – she will catch pigeons and crows and he will mostly aim for smaller birds like thrushes and Starlings, but males can catch smaller pigeons. It means that they compliment each other.
Why do Peregrines nest on buildings?
They typically nest on ledges of rock cliffs. However, they have been able to adapt to use tall buildings which to them are just another kind of cliff. Some also nest on pylons and a small number use trees. We even have nests on shingle islands.
What kind of nest do Peregrines make?
They do not bring nesting material to an area to build a nest. Instead, they make what is called a scrape or shallow depression in existing gravel or other debris by lying down and pushing back with a foot.
Why do the Peregrines eat the gravel in the nest tray?
It helps to clear fatty deposits from their digestive tract.
Why don’t the pair sit on the eggs all the time?
The female typically begins incubation after the second or third egg but before that either bird will guard the eggs, perching nearby. Once incubation begins, the female is usually sitting on the nest and the male will take shorter shifts.
How long do the eggs take to hatch?
The female does most of the incubating, which takes about 33 days. While the female flies off to feed, the male incubates the eggs. The newly hatched chicks weigh about 50-60 grams and are covered with fluffy white down feathers.
When will the eggs hatch?
The first was laid on 15 March and we expect that to hatch around 25 April.
Will all of the eggs hatch?
Sometimes one will not hatch, and often that’s the last to be laid as it hatches last and may not get enough warmth when there are also small chicks under the female.
Is it normal for the chicks to be left unattended?
Not at first – and for the first few weeks after hatching, the chicks are brooded almost constantly. After approximately 2-3 weeks they no longer need constant brooding, and the adults often are outside the nest for extended periods.
How many young do Peregrines have?
Usually 3 or 4 eggs are laid, and exceptionally 5 (as in 2020). The eggs are slightly smaller than a chicken egg, and are mottled with a dark, reddish-brown pigment.
How long do young Peregrines stay in the nest?
Approximately 6 weeks. The downy white feathers the nestlings have when they hatch are gradually replaced by juvenile feathers in about 3-5 weeks. At about 6 weeks of age, the young falcons will make their first attempts at flying. After they fledge, they will be dependent on the adults until they can hunt for themselves (about 4 weeks later).
What happens if a chick falls from the ledge?
The Cathedral staff are very good at collecting up chicks when the first try to fly and make mistakes. They will take them back to the nest gully and they can try again.
How much does a Peregrine eat in a day?
An adult Peregrine will eat about 70 grams of food per day. This is equal to about two blackbirds.
How long have these Peregrines been in Winchester?
Winnie and her former mate Chester were first noticed in 2011 when they nested on the old Police HQ in Romsey Road. That was demolished in 2017 so they moved to the Cathedral.
What happened to Chester and who is William?
Very sadly he suffered from internal parasites, and these eventually killed him last summer. Winnie raised two chicks to fledging after he had died. A new male dropped in a few times, and we named him Alfred. The was known to us, born in Andover in 2019, but he was still a bit immature. This spring Winnie has a new mate we have called William. He may also be young, but he is more experienced than Alfred.
Why did you call him William?
We named him after William Walker, the diver who worked so hard to rebuild the foundations of the Cathedral in the early 1900s. He had to work in complete darkness underwater.
Do Winnie and William stay in Winchester all year?
Some Peregrines do migrate, and some do not. Those from Scandinavia come here in the winter to avoid extremely cold weather. Our Peregrines in Winchester are rarely far from the Cathedral – it’s a prime nest spot.
Do Peregrines have any predators?
No, they are rarely killed by other birds of prey, but female Peregrines will attack each other in territorial battles for nest sites and that can result in injury.
What happens to the chicks once they leave the nest?
Shortly after fledging, the young falcons remain close to the Cathedral and are frequently observed perching on nearby buildings. The youngsters beg for food from the adults, often loudly calling.
Do we know where our Winchester chicks have moved to after fledging?
Yes, because we give them lightweight leg rings we have had reports from most of the counties in south-east England and as far away as Cambridge and Essex.
Peregrines have not had an easy time. Because they like to eat pigeons the Government ordered for many to be killed during the Second World War, so that they did not intercept pigeons carrying secret messages. After the war, the side effects of organochlorine pesticides caused a further, more serious decline by thinning egg shells and increasing adult mortality. In fact, until the 1980s Peregrines had disappeared from southern England completely.
After three decades of challenge, the Peregrine started to recover following the banning of some pesticides in the 1980s, and breeding recommenced in Dorset and Sussex. Sightings in Hampshire grew in line with this expansion and in 1993 a pair nested on the chimney of Fawley Power Station. In 1995 a nest was built on a pylon near to Southampton and by 2008 there were nine pairs nesting in the county on a variety of structures and natural sites.
A pair nested twice on the Police Headquarters in Winchester in 2011 and 2012, but as they suffered from exposure to bad weather, the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS) installed a nesting box on the roof in 2013. This pair then nested each year until early 2017 when the building was demolished. Knowing that the birds liked sitting on Cathedral it was suspected that they might try to nest there, and indeed they did – in a gulley in 2017. Sadly, heavy rain flooded their nest. In 2018 HOS asked for permission to install a raised nesting tray in the same gulley and within weeks of this being installed the birds laid eggs in March. Three beautiful chicks were reared and stayed around the Cathedral for much of the summer.
Most adult Peregrines remain in their nesting territories throughout the year. Young birds remain with their parents into their first winter but are chased away at the beginning of the new year. Peregrines are more widely distributed outside the breeding season than during it. They often hunt over wide areas looking for suitable prey such as wildfowl and waders on the coast.
The Peregrine is still regarded as being of conservation concern in both a European and a UK context, but after having suffered at the hands of man for many years, this top predator is now benefiting from our protection.
The Hampshire Ornithological Society is a charity with the aims of advancing the education of the public in all aspects of ornithology, promoting research and publishing records of what has been seen. It also supports and encourages the preservation and conservation of wild birds and places of ornithological interest in Hampshire.
As part of HOS’s work on Peregrines, many of the chicks born in Hampshire are given rings to carry for their entire lives. These are so light that they do not affect the birds, but they allow individuals to be identified whenever they are perched. The three chicks from 2018 carry both a metal and an orange ring. They have not been seen since last summer, but that is quite normal as young birds need to find their own places to live. Other chicks from Hampshire have gone as far away as Kent, Cambridge and Dorset.
Keith Betton, Chairman of HOS, said: “It is so good to be able to watch these majestic birds at close range, and to marvel at their ability to fly so fast. They have had a tough time in the past and now it is time to help them. It is great to be working with the Cathedral staff to help these birds.”
- The Peregrine is the fastest animal – capable of flying at over 200 mph when chasing prey
- Female Peregrines are much bigger than males at 1.2kg compared to 700g
- The oldest recorded Peregrine in the UK lived for 21 years
- Peregrines usually lay 4 eggs and most manage to rear 3 chicks
- About a third of their prey is made up of pigeons and doves
If you’re interested in the life of birds at Winchester Cathedral, you may be interested to know that in August 2020, with funding from Birds on the Brink, Hampshire Swifts installed 20 nest boxes for swifts in the bell tower of the cathedral. Read more here.