Nosy Neighbor : Peeping Peregrine’s Surprise Visits

   01.20.12

Some of us would complain about a nosey neighbour who peeked through the window and into our bedroom each day, but not Deirdre Baker – she receives a daily visit from a curious peregrine falcon that nests nearby.

Deirdre, who’s feathered friend has been perching on the windowsill of her apartment in Stroud, Gloucestershire, since early December, said: “It was a bit of a shock when I first spotted him, but after a while we got used to each other.  He flies over to my window each morning as soon as it’s light and doesn’t leave, apart from to search for food, until dusk.

“It’s amazing to feel so close to nature; living in a town centre apartment doesn’t seem the most obvious place to spot a bird of prey, so I was concerned at first, but the RSPB assured me that peregrines are real urban dwellers.”

The fastest creature on the planet, the peregrine falcon, is increasingly opting for town centre living.

More and more people are now seeing this impressive bird when walking to work or doing their shopping in city centres across the UK – and with its striking black hood and speeds of over 100 miles an hour, it’s an incredible wildlife spectacle.

Peregrine numbers declined during the 19th and 20th centuries because of illegal killing, and widespread contamination by persistent toxic agricultural chemicals, such as DDT, caused the collapse of the bird’s population in the UK in the late 1950s. By 1963-64 80% of the UK peregrine population had been lost.

After the banning of these pesticides peregrine numbers slowly recovered, and by the late 1990s reached pre-decline levels over much of their former range.

Until recently, peregrines were widely regarded as birds of wild crags or lonely sea cliffs, but changing landscapes mean they have adapted to living in more unlikely places.

To a peregrine, a tall building offers the same benefits as a cliff face – high, away from danger, and surrounding areas offering a good source of food.

Iconic locations they have chosen as their homes include London’s Tate Modern, Lincoln Cathedral, Birmingham’s Fort Dunlop, Manchester’s Exchange Square and Cardiff City Hall.

RSPB’s head of wildlife enquiries, Val Osborne, said: “These birds of prey are just incredible – their speed, appearance and hunting ability are second to none.  Not everyone realises they’re such urbanites, but it’s not so much the bright lights of the big city that draw them in, rather more the tall buildings that provide ideal nesting sites.

“Being used to the hustle and bustle of city life means peregrines nesting in urban areas can be bolder, but this one is rather special and really seems to enjoy its people-watching.  He clearly feels quite at home and safe, probably regarding the surrounding habitat as perfectly natural.  I just wish I knew what he was thinking!”

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