NTU Peregrine research update February 2016

Update on NTU's research into peregrine falcons and how they have adapted to urban life.

Research update
Not long now until the new breeding season is upon us, so a quick update on what we have been up to over the winter. As the previous post explained, I am a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) researching how peregrine falcons have adapted to an urban life, which will involve looking at both urban and rural nests all over the UK.

As part of the research, myself and BSc Wildlife Conservation student George Wells are collecting prey remains to further understand what urban birds are feeding on. Peregrines are very messy eaters; heads, feathers and other body parts of the birds that they have eaten are often left hanging around on the roof tops. We have been collecting prey remains from the top of the Newton building all winter, and whilst up here we get to see a peregrine's eye-view of the city (Fig. 1) – not a bad spot!

We are still going through the prey remains; so far we have found many feral pigeons, but also a wide variety of other species, including whimbrel, lapwing, coot, woodcock, and (my favourite find so far) cuckoo. We have also found the odd peregrine feather, which has probably moulted from the resident adults (Fig. 2). Prey remains have been collected by researchers at other nests in the UK, and you can find out more about their research too.

New camera
Rather excitingly, we have recently installed a thermal-imagery camera on the nest (Fig.3). This is the first time that a live-streamed thermal camera will be available to watch on a peregrine nest. It might not be as engaging to watch as the current cameras, but it will hopefully reveal whether prey brought into the nest is freshly caught (i.e. warm) or cached (i.e. cold), and, when the eggs and chicks are here, it will show us how warm they are. This information will all contribute to our understanding of the species, so keep a lookout for any exciting findings! 

So far there hasn't been too much action on the cameras since the installation; however, the male and female visit the nest regularly and are doing so increasingly, affirming their bond and making their scrape. In fact, in the last couple of days in particular, both male and female have been hanging around the nest, so it certainly looks as though they will attempt to breed again this year. 

Esther Kettel

NTU Peregrine research update February 2016

Published on 15 February 2016
  • Category: Environment and sustainability; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

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