Peregrine falcons have been around Norwich Cathedral for 200 years - and can reach speeds of more than 120mph
PUBLISHED: 17:48 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 08:42 23 March 2012
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After the news that an egg has been laid on the Norwich Cathedral nesting platform, we thought it the perfect time to give you some fun facts on peregrine falcons.
So, read the following and wow your friends and family with your peregrine prowess - everything from the month-long incubation to their top speed of 120mph plus.
* Peregrines have been sighted around the cathedral for many years, records dating back to 1809. A single peregrine (Falco peregrinus) took up residence at the cathedral during 2009. A pair of peregrines was present in 2010 but did not breed.
* Peregrines traditionally nest on cliffs and ledges but over the last decade they have increasingly been using man-made structures in cities.
* The platform on the spire was installed by the Hawk and Owl Trust in close partnership with the cathedral architect and estates manager. The platform went up at the end of February 2011, with the help of some Norfolk Fire Service fire-fighters who volunteered during their time off.
* The platform is 250 feet above ground, hung out of a window on a metal frame and covered with rubber so that it won’t damage the fabric of the building.
* The platform is 1 metre long and 60cm wide. The bottom is covered in gravel. The birds will not bring in any nesting materials. They just make a scrape in the gravel.
* Peregrines usually lay three to four brick red/pink eggs and incubate them for 28 to 33 days.
* The female does most of the incubating but the male will also help. He brings most of the food in while the female incubates.
* Unlike with many birds of prey, the eggs hatch more or less at the same time so the chicks are all about the same size.
* The first flight (fledging) takes place five to six weeks after hatching.
* The young birds will stay with their parents learning to hunt for a further couple of months. By late summer/autumn the youngsters will move away but they may return in the spring. The parent birds may tolerate them until they get their adult plumage.
* The peregrine falcon is the largest falcon resident in the UK (wingspan about 1m or 3ft). The female is bigger than the male.
* Peregrines eat a range of other birds which they catch on the wing, here in the city they should be eating plenty of pigeons.
* To catch prey, peregrines fold their wings and go into a dive (called a stoop), which can be so steep that they can reach speeds of more than 120mph. Baffles in the nostrils are thought to slow down the inrush of air to avoid bursting the lungs.
* Peregrine numbers crashed in the 1960s due to poisoning from DDT pesticides. These pesticides caused the peregrine egg shells to become thin so that they broke when the birds tried to incubate them. The Hawk and Owl Trust was founded in 1969 in response to this dramatic decline.
* Once the pesticides were withdrawn there was a slow recovery. The current national population is estimated at 1,500 pairs.
* A pair of peregrines bred in West Norfolk for the first time two years ago – it is believed this was the first peregrine breeding in Norfolk for 200 years.