The Peregrine is perhaps one of the most alluring species for many raptor fieldworkers. Following the well publicised population declines in the late 1950s and 60s, the majority of breeding birds were restricted to some of the remotest parts of northern England. As numbers slowly increased, so did the threats from egg collectors and falconers leading to an increased need for nest protection, and providing a real focus for the raptor fieldworkers. As such, the monitoring of Peregrine populations has become an integral part of the many of the groups represented on the Forum.
Although traditionally tied to large crags in the uplands, as the population has increased Peregrines have started to utilise a range of other nest sites. In some upland areas where there a few tall crags and optimal nest sites are in short supply, they will nest on the ground. As birds have started to spread into lowland areas, man made structures such as pylons and buildings now provide the high, safe nest sites preferred by this species.
The main prey items are medium sized birds that are often taken after a spectacular stoop. Although we have a lot to learn about the movements of this species, the majority of adults will remain close to the nesting territory all year round with immatures wandering quite widely.
The national population was 1530 pairs in 2002 (Holling, M. & RBBP, 2011).
Full details of the status in each member group area can be found in the annual reports.
In many areas of the country the increase in the Peregrine population has been one of the major conservation successes of recent decades however, in many upland areas where grouse shooting is the main land use, the situation is completely the opposite. One of the key aims of the Forum has been to highlight this problem which led to a recent collaborative research paper, with the RSPB carrying out analysis of the breeding Peregrine data that had been collected by raptor fieldworkers between 1980 and 2006.
The results showed the extent of persecution on grouse moors in northern England. Amar et al (2011) found that productivity of pairs on grouse moors was 50% lower than pairs breeding on non-grouse moor habitat, and concluded that as clutch size and brood size of successful nests did not differ between habitat types, this difference was unlikely to be explained by food availability. Population models also indicated that populations on grouse moors were unable to sustain themselves without immigration.
Whilst the shooting lobby continue to provide unsubstantiated claims that the situation is now much improved, data collected by member groups clearly shows that in many areas of northern England, Peregrines are completely absent from the majority of traditional nest sites on grouse moors. Despite full legal protection and many of these moors being designated as Special Protection Areas in part for breeding Peregrines under European legislation, Peregrines and other raptor species are not tolerated by many grouse moor managers.
Amar, A., et al. (2011) Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biological Conservation 145:1 pp 86-94. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.014
Holling, M, and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (2011) Rare breeding birds in the United. Kingdom in 2009. British Birds 104 pp 476-537.