After David Attenborough’s most recent Planet Earth episode on cities, it gives me great pleasure to introduce a record breaker living in our small corner of the globe. Here we provide a home to nothing less than the fastest animal on earth, diving for prey at speeds up to 389km/h with deathly precision. With a wingspan of up to 1.2m, and a body length of up to 58cm, this streamlined and powerful falcon is a force to be reckoned with, and a bird to be remembered. Given how iconic the Peregrine Falcon is in the animal kingdom, the story of such a family in our city is one not to be forgotten.
Until recently, Peregrines have suffered a troubled history in the UK from risk to illegal hunting, to egg collecting and poisoning. In the 1960s the species reached an all-time low when numbers plummeted after the use of the pesticide DDT, thinning the shells of eggs causing them to break during incubation. However, thanks to the banning of the pesticide, and the stringent control over human interference threatening the falcons, UK numbers have since recovered to about 1500 breeding pairs. What is particularly interesting, is that accompanying the population growth has the preference for the bustling life in the city.
Tall city centre buildings provide Peregrine Falcons with safe areas to nest and produce young, and no exception to such a building is the Newton and Arkwright building at Nottingham Trent University. This site is home to a very successful breeding pair, and with the help of the university, and the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, we have video footage of life around a peregrine family home since 2011. Since recording of nest success began, the fledging of 28 chicks has been noted up to 2015. Detailed records on their favourite cuisine have even been recorded, where rings from pigeons taken to the nest have been removed at the end of each season. Each year the chicks themselves have been carefully rung, providing the opportunity to record where fledglings are migrating to in oncoming years.
Altogether, we have a fantastic success story, from the recovery of the Peregrine population, to the successful (and very famous) family home nested in the heart of Nottingham. It is not often that you can say a bustling city provides a home for a world record-breaking animal, but thanks to careful management from a number of parties, this breeding pair is doing very well indeed. With the breeding season starting in March, all we can do is wait through the winter months for the family to begin laying their eggs once again.
Until then, here are the highlights from a previous year, with some incredible footage of their day-to-day life.
all photos and media credited to NTU: http://www4.ntu.ac.uk/sustainability/biodiversity/falcons/photo_gallery/149235.html#14