Famed peregrine falcons return to Chichester

Chichester cathedral’s famed peregrine falcons have returned for the forthcoming breeding season and have been sighted making themselves at home on the Spire.

Photo by David Shaw
Photo by David Shaw

The peregrine project is run jointly by Chichester Cathedral, the Sussex Ornithological Society (SOS) and local wildlife enthusiasts David and Janet Shaw who have been observing the birds since 2001.

Janet said: “The peregrine pair are forging a strong partnership and everyone is hopeful of another successful breeding season at this stage.”

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Initial observations suggest that the female is the one who has been in residence previously with her partner, affectionately named ‘Maverick’, with whom she raised eight chicks in the last two years.

However, this year a young male has appeared and Maverick, aged at least 16 years – an amazing feat for a wild peregrine – has not been seen since Christmas Eve.

The female peregrine will fiercely defend the roost when other males or females try their luck. As last year, a pair of ravens are nesting on another section of the Spire where they managed to fledge one chick last year. The peregrines have been seen to dispatch other birds and attack the ravens when they try to approach their nest.

A new nest box has been installed this year by the Sussex Ornithological Society, after last year’s ‘teenagers’ destroyed the old one! Everyone can follow the peregrines’ progress from a webcam installed in the nesting site on the spire by Carnyx TV, with a link from the Cathedral’s website.

A cathedral spokesperson said: “Last year as we went into lockdown, we had a growing number of people from all around the world following the birds’ activities via the live-stream.

"It brought a great deal of pleasure to many people who were able to engage with them and follow their daily lives, from the safety of their own homes. If you spot the peregrines, please do share the moment with us using the hashtag #ChichesterPeregrines on social media.”

Peregrines were first seen on the tower in the mid-1990s. They have been very successful nesting on the Cathedral and have fledged more than 60 chicks since 2001. These magnificent birds of prey can grow up to half a metre in length and have a wingspan of over a metre.

They live for 15 to 18 years and are the fastest animals in the world, diving at speeds of just under 250 miles an hour to catch their prey.

The image shows the peregrine pair sharing a meal on the spire.

Photo: David Shaw Wildlife.