The Peregrines Return in 2021

2020 was a successful year for our Peregrine family! All five chicks flew the nest which is a very rare occurrence with such a large family. The two female and three male chicks have all headed off to find territories of their own. We had great fun watching them grow via our Peregrine webcam. We’ve been getting reports of their return this year, so we’ve turned the cameras back on for your delight. 

Also, please see our experts’ diaries and pictures for 2021.


The Peregrine

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.

Peregrines are very loyal to their nest sites, and so the Cathedral staff have cleaned the tray in the hope that nesting will take place once again.

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. At least 25 pairs nested in Hampshire in 2018.

Peregrine Diary 2021

Keith Betton from the Hampshire Ornithological Society will be updating us regularly with how the Peregrines are progressing. Click here.

Hampshire Ornithological Society

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.”

You can find out more about the Hampshire Ornithological Society here.

A Virger’s View

2020 for the Peregrines at the Cathedral was a stunning nesting season. Five eggs laid, five chicks hatched and five youngsters fledged which was beyond all our expectations. We should not have worried – in the three seasons I have been observing this pair nesting, attentiveness has been their watch word. Whether looking after each other, attending the nest or the chicks, they are masters of their class. I can say that it is truly amazing working in the Cathedral on a daily basis and observing them close up. I hope you get as much satisfaction as the staff and the volunteers of the Cathedral get, in the daily observations we are blessed with, year in and year out.

Ian James – Virger at Winchester Cathedral

Peregrine – Five Fasts Facts

  • 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

2019 Peregrine Gallery

Below are some wonderful images captured by the HOS and members of the public from 2019. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to post a sufficient roll of photos for 2020.

If you capture a glimpse of the Peregrine Falcons, make sure to share them with us on Facebook @winchestercathedral | Twitter @wincathedral | Instagram @winchestercathedral

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