Peregrines in Bath

How They’ve Done This Century

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Photo by Hamish Smith

Peregrines were first observed regularly at Bath from around 2000. After three years of peregrine residence without any indication of successful breeding the Hawk and Owl Trust built a nest platform. It was installed on the spire of one of the peregrine’s favourite roost sites, St John’s RC Church in South Parade in 2005 and the birds first bred successfully the following season, in 2006. They have hatched young every season since.

For a number of years conservationists have been able to monitor the progress of the adults and their clutch via a locally accessed camera installed above the nest site. In 2014 a high quality wildlife camera system streaming live on the internet was installed. The observations via these camera systems have and will continue to provide invaluable insight into the feeding and breeding ecology of these magnificent birds.

Normal peregrine clutches are three or four eggs, with two or three hatching. At Bath the pair have been productive, with the female laying four eggs in three of the six most recent breeding seasons and twice raising four young. This is thought to be thanks to the ready supply of prey from the healthy feral pigeon population.

The exact composition of the birds’ diet is subject to ongoing research, analysing prey remains from below the nest site, and from the nest itself once the young have flown.

A good clutch does not always guarantee a good number of fledglings. One season one of four eggs was addled and never developed, while one of the three fledglings died. Peregrines normally dispose of dead young by dropping them off the nest site and its body was later recovered from below the nest.

Young peregrines spend their time with the adults developing their hunting skills over the city in their first few months on the wing. As the season progresses and autumn comes along the young birds begin to disperse gradually, disappearing individually at first for a few days, and then for longer, but seeming to return to Bath regularly in their first year. While they remain immature their presence is not resisted by the adults, which do not drive the young away.

However, after the turn of the year, when the young have developed adult plumage, their parents start to view them as competitors for the forthcoming breeding season and that is when the young have to make themselves scare, or risk their parents attacking them.
If an adult dies or disappears an individual from an earlier brood may take its place and pair with the surviving adult.