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Uncertainty over sex of Chichester Cathedral peregrine chicks

Last modified: 18 May 2012

Chichester Cathedral peregrine chicks May 2012

Image: The RSPB

The four chicks from the celebrity pair of peregrines nesting on top of Chichester Cathedral have now been ringed with surprising results.

For the first time in the history of this famous peregrine family, it is uncertain as to what sex the chicks are at this stage.

The news comes from the ringing of the chicks, carried out by The Sussex Ornithological Society’s Graham Roberts, when the brood were about 21 days old. The sex of the chicks is identified by weighing and measuring their feet, as female peregrines have bigger feet than males. The four new arrivals were given unique rings to identify them in the future.

The Sussex Ornithological Society’s Graham Roberts, who conducted the ringing, said: "I always ring the chicks at about 21 days old when their wing feathers are just beginning to sprout.  Usually it is possible to determine their sex with the females being noticeably bigger by this age.  However, this year I just couldn't be sure.”

It was initially thought that the brood of four were all good sized males, however after more consideration it was concluded that the heavier two weighing 760g and 725g may possibly be females.

Molly Dailide from the RSPB said: “This is now a very exciting time. As the chicks grow up we will be able to see more clearly any differences in their size which will give a better indication of what sex they are.”

Thousands of people have visited the RSPB Date with Nature at the Cathedral since the project began at Easter. In a couple of weeks when the young fledge the charity will move out from the cafe and set up a viewing area on the front lawn.  Visitors will be able to use telescopes and binoculars free of charge to get close-up views of the chicks learning to fly.

Molly added: “Once we move outside you get some really exciting views of the birds flying above chasing each other and learning how to hunt for themselves.”

The Date with Nature project runs through to 8 July and as well as beaming live footage from the nest to a screen below, people can watch events unfold online at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/datewithnature/146937-chichester-cathedral-peregrines

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