Video shows peregrine falcons feed their chicks – on York Minster

One of York Minster's peregrine falcons. Photograph: Doug Crawford
13 Jul 2017 @ 9.18 pm
| Environment

Wild news – two of York Minster’s highest flying residents have started a family.

A pair of peregrines has been in residence at the Minster for over a decade, and nesting attempts were made in 2003 and 2015. But no young had successfully reached fledging age – until now.

Last year, the Minster installed a purpose-made nest box on the North West tower of the gothic cathedral. And in spring, a new female appeared on the scene.

Then the pair were seen mating and nest scraping: behaviour that indicated egg laying might be imminent.

Fluffy white heads

And good news was confirmed when Doug Crawford, who runs the York Peregrines twitter feed with Jack Ashton-Booth, captured this video of them feeding two chicks.

“Most peregrines in Britain lay their eggs at the end of March or early April, but our pair on the Minster only started incubating from the middle of May,” Doug told YorkMix.

He said an early sign that the eggs might have hatched was a month later when the male brought food down to the nest site, and the female could be seen tearing it up.

But it wasn’t until the first week of July that the chicks were actually visible, said Doug.

The female flew in to the balcony with food, then two little fluffy white heads popped up begging to be fed.

That was a wonderful sight – something I’ve waited three years to see.

World’s fastest animals

The brood. Photograph © York Peregrines on Flickr

The chicks are now around three weeks old. The RSPB will monitor the birds throughout their lives and collect data about their behaviour.

Senior investigations officer at the RSPB Mark Thomas said: “It is fantastic that the York Minster peregrines appear to have reared a brood of healthy chicks.

“There are plentiful food sources at the moment so these chicks will hopefully continue to thrive.”

Peregrines are a protected species and the fastest living things on the planet, able to reach 200mph when diving for prey, which they catch mid-air on the wing. They traditionally nest on cliff ledges in remote areas.

However these adaptable birds are increasingly making towns and cities their home.

Steve Bielby, assistant director of works at York Minster, is more than happy to have new residents at the cathedral.

“We’ll continue to work closely with our colleagues at the RSPB to protect the birds from disturbance for the next few weeks and months,” he said.

“Restoration and conservation work in the vicinity of the nest will be kept to a minimum until the chicks fledge and leave the nesting site later in the summer.”