City lights could be influencing peregrine feeding habits, study suggests

Peregrine falcons – which typically hunt and feed during the day – may be using city lights to feed their young at night, scientists believe.

Peregrine falcons – which typically hunt and feed during the day – may be using city lights to feed their young at night, scientists believe.

A team at Nottingham Trent University observed adult peregrines at a city site bringing food back to the nest for chicks on several occasions late at night.

Having a far greater abundance of prey than their rural counterparts could be another reason for this newly-emerging habit, the researchers suggest.

While peregrines typically nest on cliff edges and open landscapes, in recent years they have started nesting on tall buildings in towns and cities, which mimic these conditions.

The study involved monitoring Nottingham Trent University's resident peregrines – which have nested on a ledge of the University's Newton building in the city centre for more than ten years – as well as two other nest sites in the UK.

Peregrines are considered daytime raptors, but urban environments are providing them with nocturnal hunting opportunities

Esther Kettel, Nottingham Trent University

Using webcams to view their movements between 10 pm and 4 am, the team observed the birds at the Nottingham site returning with food on four separate occasions, including three times during one night.

The adults returned with small to medium-sized birds – and on one occasion what was believed to be a bat.

The latest work, published in the Journal of Raptor Research , forms part of a wider study at the University investigating what impact nesting in urban areas is having on peregrine falcons.

"Peregrines are considered daytime raptors, but urban environments are providing them with nocturnal hunting opportunities," said Esther Kettel, a researcher in the University's School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

She said: "It is very possible that these birds are taking advantage of street lights and maximising hunting opportunities where there is plenty of prey. Our study suggests that night-time feeding could be more widespread than previously known.

"We want to be able to ascertain whether the birds are hunting the food at night, or bringing it in from a nearby 'larder' where they have stored earlier kills. It is known that rural peregrines will store food for later, but this is particularly during the winter and when food is scarce.

"This is something which we hope to resolve as part of a further study, in which we're using thermal cameras to show whether the prey is still warm."

Peregrine falcons are believed to be the fastest animal on the planet, reaching speeds of more than 200mph when diving for prey.

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City lights could be influencing peregrine feeding habits, study suggests

Published on 9 September 2016
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

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