Three Peregrine Falcon chicks hatched on St Albans Cathedral last week, with thousands of people logging onto the Cathedral’s webcam to view the new arrivals.
The pair of Peregrine Falcons that bred on the Cathedral for the first time in 2022, bred for a second year in a row and last month three eggs were laid. The first egg was laid within just hours of the feed from the Cathedral’s webcam going live and since then, the public have been engrossed in watching the birds’ behaviour, with the webcam receiving over 130,807 page views to date and visitors staying to watch for several minutes at a time. The Peregrine Falcons’ activity has also attracted attention from the ground, with bird watchers, photographers and other interested parties gathering for sightings of the birds of prey.
The three chicks hatched in a purposely installed nesting tray in a sheltered location very high up on the Cathedral and are being tended to by their parents – Alban and Boudica, named by the public in 2022. The Peregrine Falcon project is part of the larger Wilder St Albans project, a collaboration between Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and St Albans City and District Council, which has been fully supported by the Cathedral and overseen by local ornithologist and licensed bird-ringer, Barry Trevis. Barry has monitored the birds since they first arrived in St Albans and offered experienced advice and consultation throughout.
Heidi Carruthers, Engagement Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust said: ‘We’re thrilled to see the chicks have hatched safely and, like so many others, we have been watching the webcam in anticipation of the big event. It’s heart-warming to see how the public have become invested in the Peregrine Falcons journey and now we’ll all be following them on to the chicks fledging.
‘Our Peregrine Watch events, which we’re hosting in the Cathedral grounds, with our friends from the RSPB, every weekend from now until mid-summer, will be a further opportunity for people to get a closer look at these majestic birds and learn more about them.’
Local ornithologist Barry Trevis added: ‘I was delighted to see the first chick had hatched in the early hours of Thursday last, followed closely by the two others over just a 12-hour period. If all goes well we can expect to see the chicks develop quickly by watching much feeding activity from the parents bringing in prey items over the 6 weeks or so until they fledge from the nest, likely to be from mid to late June. We can then look forward to sightings of five Peregrines perched on the Cathedral and then soaring above the City and it’s surrounds through the summer.’
The adult peregrine is a powerful bird of prey with blue/grey plumage, a white face and a contrasting black moustache, who is extremely quick and agile. It holds the record for being not only the fastest bird in the world, but also the fastest member of the animal kingdom with a diving speed in excess of 200 miles per hour.
Numbers of the species fell through the first half of the twentieth century to critical levels in the 1960’s but today peregrine falcons are protected by law as a Schedule 1 listed species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. With it now being an offence to disturb the birds in any way, their numbers are slowly increasing – albeit with an estimated 1,700 breeding pairs nationwide their recovery still has a way to go.
Peregrine falcons are only found in a small number of isolated spots in the South-east of England and the St Albans pair are one of only five pairs breeding in Hertfordshire. The birds normally mate for life and can remain loyal to their nest site each year, so it is hoped that this breeding pair will continue to remain at the Cathedral and add to the numbers of the species.
Kevin Walton, Canon Chancellor of St Albans Cathedral said: ‘We are very pleased to welcome our new Peregrine Falcons to their temporary home in the Cathedral, and as they prepare to take to the skies, we wish upon them God’s blessing. Congratulations also to parents, Alban and Boudica!’
It is hoped that there may be first sightings of chicks on the Cathedral from mid-June.
Viewers can follow the progress of the Peregrine Falcon family on the Cathedral’s webcam, which has been sponsored by Leica, visit www.stalbanscathedral.org/peregrine-live-cam. For more information about Peregrine Watch, visit www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/events.
The Trust is also running a FREE online ‘How to sketch Peregrines’ event on 6 June, visit www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/events/learn-sketch-peregrines-online-6jun23 to register.
Image © Barry Trevis