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Thursday, 16 August 2012

Prey and nest boxes

One of the questions that I get asked quite a lot is what are they feeding on in London, the obvious one is feral pigeon, this forms around 90-95% of their diet, this is mainly down to the fact that there are so many of them. Additionally there flight patterns suit the Peregrines as they tend to move around a lot, particularly at dawn when they move to their feeding grounds which may be quite a distance away.
For a number of years I have been doing prey collections at individual sites in London and these have been sent off for analysis to Ed Drewitt in Bristol, he very kindly identifies one and all.
The top 3 in London in order taken seem to be – Feral Pigeon, Starling and Ring Necked Parakeet, it makes sense as all 3 are pretty abundant, however Black Headed Gull is as well but this is never taken as much as the others.Carrying size and possible flavour of meat may be an issue?

A selection of feathers taken last year from one site, some are from a peregrine moult, one in particular is astonishing, will reveal id at next posting, any idea's?

Over the years he has identified some unusual prey, Hen Pheasant tops the list at one site, feathers only, don’t ask me how as even a Falcon could surely not carry it. On this particular site, the nest area is 40 metres up, the only way would have been at night which is when the ‘weak’ flyers move round, she likely intercepted it above the nest area or close and then just glided in. Alternatively she/he again could have hit it at night, failed to hold or carry and feathers just drifted down onto the structure.

I checked a site over the weekend and collected up the prey, there were the obvious feral pigeons, at least 4 or 5 Starlings, perhaps 3 or 4 Ring Necked Parakeets, 2 Black Headed Gulls, a Black Tailed Godwit and a Moorhen. More will no doubt come to light when Ed checks the various feathers and bones.

One thing that Peregrines are not is house proud; on this particular site the nest box was scrubbed and cleaned for 2012 prior to breeding as I do with all the boxes. Looking at it and the surrounding area as usual resembled a bit of a pig sty after the season’s breeding, it is the same everywhere. I will know clean it out and scrub thoroughly to get rid of any parasites and then in Jan/Feb give it a final clean out prior to starting all over again.
I have recently nearly finished one which will be shortly off to pastures new, this is the walk in version that are more successful than the old Hawk and Owl design with a lip and a ledge. You may think they are big but when you have an adult Falcon or Tiercel and up to 4, sometimes 5 full grown juveniles it has to be big to allow them to exercise.

A box in the process of being built.....

Not far off being finished, this is hopefully how it will end up...below


This is all important on that maiden flight, if they have not the room to exercise and build wing strength and muscle it is sometimes inevitable that 1 or more will ground. Sometimes even with a good exercise area a combination of events can ground them, weather on the day(lack of wind) or even shocked into flight by an adult, such was the case with the pair that Nathalie monitors at Fulham in 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Re your picture of feathers from 16th August 2012 I have found one similar to the large one third from right - sort of speckled AND barred. Did you have an ID? Have tried to ID without success so far.