Cathedral Peregrines Return

12th March 2021

Something for the weekend?

Peregrine-watch as our cathedral residents come home to nest.

Peregrines have been spotted returning to our cathedrals again for the forthcoming breeding season.

It’s all eyes on Salisbury Cathedral’s spires this weekend after last year’s Mothering Sunday saw the first egg appear and the cathedral’s live peregrine webcams have already witnessed some courtship action earlier this month!

Salisbury’s peregrines became must-see viewing during our first national lockdown, clocking up over 600,000 views and at one point 1,000 people were watching at once.

The live peregrine webcams are here.

Chichester cathedral’s pair have been sighted making themselves at home on the Spire and their webcam is now live.

Chichester Cathedral was the first in Europe to employ webcam technology after 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.

Cathedral peregrines - live webcam links

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.

You can follow the peregrines’ progress from a webcam installed in the nesting site on the Spire, with a link from the Cathedral’s website which went live this week.

It’s all go at Leicester Cathedral – with peregrine shenanigans that watchers have been struggling to follow. Leicester have had a regular pair in their box for some years now but last year a new female broke in while the original female was sitting on her eggs. A fight broke out and as a result the original female did not bother to incubate the eggs.

In September a new female was spotted and the original female has now left. Since then the resident male has been playing fast and loose with a number of females which is keeping peregrine watchers hooked….You can follow them on Twitter and they do have a website.

More peregrine falcon updates with webcam links from across England here.

Worcester Cathedral are keeping a keen eye out after they had success during the first national lockdown when a new ‘young’ pair of peregrines appeared from nowhere, claimed territory and actually nested on the Main Tower inside the main north east pinnacle – ignoring the lovely new large box they had set up within an open pinnacle for them in 2019 – and successfully reared a young male.

So it’s all eyes on the north east pinnacle again this year after some familiar courtship patterns could mean Worcester may already have one egg.

For the fifth year running, the resident pair of peregrines have been spotted returning to their nesting site at Winchester Cathedral via the Peregrine-Cam.

Winnie and Chester (the resident peregrines) broke records last year when all five eggs laid last year hatched and fledged.

In 2019, all four eggs hatched and fledged, with one of the young male birds having recently taken up residence at St Andrew’s church in Farnham. Over the last three years, Winnie and Chester have successfully reared twelve chicks, having relocated to Winchester Cathedral in 2017 when their home of six years, the Police Headquarters on Romsey Road, was demolished.

Keith Betton, from the Hampshire Ornithological Society who supplied and installed the nesting tray in 2018, has been monitoring the behaviour of the birds this year and said the signs were hopeful that Winnie and Chester were preparing for another season, including frequent visits to the nest and making a dent in the soft shingle of the nesting tray.

“We are hopeful that 2021 will be another successful year for the Peregrines,” he said.

“Witnessing the chicks hatching is a rare sight that people don’t often get to experience, and we are very excited to be able to share this.”

At Norwich Cathedral, the Hawk and Owl Trust who look after the peregrines, are preparing for a successful season. They have cleaned and prepared the peregrine box , checked the cameras, sorted out the microphone, and installed a new camera too – and have spotted some courtship action!

Read more about the Norwich Cathedral peregrines here.

cathedral peregrines - watch live

In Wakefield, the peregrines have been looked after by Francis Hickenbottom of the Wakefield Cathedral Peregrine Project. The project raised funds to install cameras six years ago and have been keeping an eye on peregrine activity ever since. It took the cathedral peregrines a year to settle, but since then they have raised 21 chicks as well as a fosterling who fell from a nest at Hull’s KC Stadium.

There are two cameras on the spire at Wakefield Cathedral, one in the nesting box and one on the walls. And everything is recorded – what they eat, when their eggs hatch, and the first flights of their chicks. Right now it is courting season and time to ready the nest. Francis said he expected a first egg to arrive in the final week of March with the first hatchling appearing in the first week of May. You can watch the live nest cam here.

Cliff-dwelling peregrines almost became extinct in Britain during the last century due to the use of pesticides and have more recently re-invented themselves as city dwellers, using tall urban structures to replicate their natural nesting habitat.

About 1,505 breeding pairs currently live in the UK according to the British Trust for Ornithology survey in 2014. It’s 2002 study showed peregrines living at 62 manmade structures including one urban nesting site recorded as far back as the mid-19th Century.

Cathedrals are a favourite home for these high-flying raptors who are loyal to their nesting sites with Wakefield, Lincoln, Winchester, Salisbury, Norwich, Leicester, Derby, Worcester and Chichester all offering sites for them – and most working with their local ornithologists or RSPB branches to provide web cam links.
Peregrine falcons have been nesting in Lincoln’s central Bell Tower for more than a decade and have raised at least 27 young. A new collaboration between the cathedral, the University of Lincoln and wireless internet provider, Quickline last year means there’s now a live feed available of the peregrines there too.

Want to find out more about peregrines and cathedrals, have a look at our earlier article.