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The Early Years







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Frequently Asked Questions

I've been told that the peregrines have a 'runt' that acts as food for the other chicks when times are hard. Is that true?

No. Times are rarely hard for two adult peregrines that are able to hunt for food. Unlike barn owls that spread out their egg-laying and hatching times so as to allow the first-born to predate the younger chick in times of food scarcity, the peregrine times the hatchings so all chicks arrive within a day or two. All are fed, and certainly in Louth, all have developed into juveniles.

Why is the nest tray placed on the north, coldest side of the tower where there is no sun?

The peregrine is used to bleak conditions in its usual mountain or sea-cliff habitat and cold winds don't affect them and the chicks are always brooded when small if the weather is cold. Very little rain falls from the north in the UK so it is the driest aspect to put the tray. The big danger is from the heat of the sun, and the rain that in the UK comes from the west. When the chicks are old enough not to need brooding, they can become over-heated very quickly in the afternoon sun, and the westerly showers can also soak them. The north and east are therefore always the preferred natural sites peregrines choose, and we try to mimic that with the nest tray.

Are the adult birds the same size?

No. As is the case with most raptors, the male is around one third smaller than the female and is called a Tiercel, from the Latin tertius, meaning a third. There are a number of reasons for the size difference – the larger size of the female makes it easier for her to cover the eggs when incubating and makes her more threatening to preditors. The smaller size of the male means he is more agile when hunting prey.

I have seen peregrines in my garden

Unlikely. Peregrines don't catch garden birds on the ground or on bird tables, they are aerial specialists. It's more likely you have seen a sparrowhawk – they do specialise in ambushing small garden birds.

How many eggs does the female lay?

3-4 is the norm, but it can be fewer, and 6 isn't unknown. For most of the time the female will not incubate the first egg. In fact, she will only properly incubate from the third or even the fourth egg. The egg(s) will often be in the tray with no visible signs of the parents, which is perfectly normal, but the adults are not far away.

Do both adults incubate the eggs?

The female will do most of the incubating, which lasts about a month, sometimes letting the male have a turn whilst she feeds and preens. The male does all the hunting during incubation, and will catch a lot of blackbird-size prey such as woodcock, golden plover, starlings, etc. Sometimes he will hunt at night, using the lights of Louth to illuminate waders that often move around in the hours of darkness.

Why are the injured birds taken to Worksop when there are birds of prey centres closer to Louth?

Peregrines are a Schedule 1 listed species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. As such, they can only be handled by those licenced to do so and the Raptor Rescue Centre near Worksop is the closest centre to Louth that has a licence to handle and if necessary keep wild peregrines. Birds found in visitor attractions are often captive-bred individuals