Peregrine falcons thrive during lockdown

Peregrine falcon chick, Peak District

Peregrine falcon chicks have hatched in the ruins of a 12th-century castle in Dorset and across the rugged moors of the Peak District.

We think the success of these majestic birds is most likely because of the peaceful environment created by lockdown.

We're excited to reveal that there are 11 peregrine falcon chicks ready to fledge across four areas of land you help us care for. Three of these rare chicks hatched at Corfe Castle in Dorset and the remaining eight were discovered at three different sites at High Peak Moors in the Peak District. 

The pair of breeding peregrines at Corfe Castle grabbed the spotlight during lockdown when they built a nest 70ft up on the Keep walls.This was the first time a pair of the raptors had nested at the site since the 1980s. The team at Corfe Castle suspect the birds moved in because of the absence of visitors during lockdown, and are pleased they are continuing to thrive since the site reopened. 

Tom Clarke, Nature Engagement Officer for the National Trust, said: 'The peregrines moving in just as we went into lockdown was perfect timing. It gave them a quiet castle to make a nest and lay their eggs. By the time we opened, the eggs had hatched and the parents were very unlikely to abandon their nest. 

'They’ve wowed our visitors for the past six weeks and are now starting to leave the nest. Visitors are currently able to see the parents luring their offspring into the big wide world by offering prey that they’ve captured.'

Peregrine falcons nesting at Corfe Castle
Peregrine falcons nesting at Corfe Castle
Peregrine falcons nesting at Corfe Castle

The presence of the birds at High Peak takes the total number of successful breeding pairs discovered in the moors of the National Park this year to six, double the average since the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative began reporting in 2012. The aim is to encourage at least 17 breeding pairs. 

" If we give them the opportunity to thrive and grow up, these chicks will become the fastest animals in the world. It’s known that stooping adults hunting prey can reach speeds of over 200mph. That is something to wonder at."
- Jon Stewart, General Manager, Peak District

Helping falcons take to the skies

With a wingspan that typically reaches 1.2 metres, peregrines are the largest of the wild falcons that breed in the UK. Sadly numbers of these majestic birds had fallen significantly by the 1960s and 1970s. While improved legislation and protection have helped to increase the number of breeding pairs to around 1,769 across the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands, their presence is still low, especially in upland areas.

By working in partnership with partners British Trust for Ornithology, Natural England and volunteers from the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, many of the birds at High Peak have been ringed so we can continue to monitor their progress. 

Kait Jones, Area Ranger for the Peak District, said: 'It’s vital that any visitors who may come across the sites keep their distance at this key time in the chick’s development. If the parents are disturbed, they may not return to feed the youngsters and they will sadly die.'

Jon Stewart, General Manager for the National Trust in the Peak District, added: 'Our vision is for the moors to be a landscape full of wildlife and we’re working with our tenants and partners to help achieve this.'