At Norwich Cathedral our four amazing peregrine chicks seem to be doing incredibly well and growing at a fast pace, being fed regularly by the dad every day. From our observations, we can now confirm that the Norwich female has not been seen since 15 May and as such can conclude that she is no longer in the Norwich area. However despite the lack of presence from the female, the chicks’ current development does not seem to be affected. Our male is doing a fantastic job of looking after them all and at this rate; he will be being nominated for Super Dad of the year.
To provide viewers of our webcams with an understanding of what is happening at Norwich Cathedral, we have been researching the current behavioural patterns that have been seen. What is of interest in this particular case is the behaviour that GA has shown towards our resident female at Norwich. GA’s regular visits to Norwich over the past year suggests that she may be struggling to find a territory and/or mate of her own and is therefore intruding into another territory to achieve this. She has moved East into an area of the UK, where there may be less suitable breeding sites compared to the more abundant natural breeding cliffs available in traditional areas in the West and North of the country.
Our present understanding of this area of Peregrine behaviour is poorly understood and it is possible that this could be a common scenario in the peregrine world. It is only because the intruder can be identified by its colour ring and there is a Webcam viewing them, alongside a regular watchpoint to record all this that we know what is going on. This behaviour may happen frequently but now we get to see it online and through social media, mainly at urban breeding sites, are we able to learn from it.
This highlights the need to continue research and use new technologies to better understand raptor behaviour. The Peregrine is one of the most well-studied raptor species but this example shows that our knowledge of this species is still limited and needs further work into the future. Whilst it may be uncomfortable viewing for some, this a natural occurrence and we should remain as observers. A policy of non-intervention is essential to understand this behaviour and its possible outcomes.
Caution should also be exercised in regard to anthropomorphising this behaviour. Interpreting animal behaviour in the context of human behaviour can lead to misunderstanding why species behave in the way they do. All species are in a constant struggle for survival and have a strong need to pass on their genes to the next generation. This creates competition between and within species and is essentially what we are witnessing at Norwich Cathedral.
We can now also reveal, following the ringing and DNA sampling on Monday 16 May, which we confirm did not cause our resident female to desert the nest, that all four chicks are in fact female. The DNA results received by the Hawk and Owl Trust have conclusively proven this to us. The current sexing methods used are based upon biometrics taken at the point of ringing, such as their weight, physical size and wingspan, however technology is racing along and this year, for the first time, we were in a position where DNA samples could be taken, which will confirm without a doubt the sex of all the individuals. Also following the ringing we can now release the information noted on their rings. Once they fledge, we will then be able to track the whereabouts and progress of our chicks in and around Norwich and possibly further afield. The details found on the orange rings on their legs are YY, 41, 42 and 43. Each bird has its own number or initials and this allows us to identify each chick individually.
Here at the Hawk and Owl Trust, staff and volunteers alike, are all deeply saddened by the disappearance of our resident female, which has been about since 2012. However we must now take this opportunity to observe the peregrine, and learn together about what happens as the story unfolds.