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Peregrine chicks saved after parents found illegally killed

Last modified: 08 June 2017

Female peregrine at nest feeding chicks

There are thought to be just 1500 pairs of peregrines in the UK

Image: Chris Gomersall

• Police suspect adult birds were deliberately poisoned
• Smallest chick to feature on tonight’s Springwatch 

Three peregrine falcon chicks, which were rescued from a nest in Shropshire after their parents were found dead, have found new foster homes.

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit was called to Clee Hill quarry on 31 May after a dead adult peregrine falcon was discovered on the ground, leaving a nest of three young chicks dependent and vulnerable. On attending the scene, the RSPB found a second body, thought to be the bird’s mate. 

A specialist climber abseiled down the cliff to rescue the orphan chicks. They were examined by a local vet then cared for by a specialist rehabilitator in Yorkshire and have now found new homes in foster nests in the wild. Two chicks are being placed into a nest in the Midlands, while the third, smaller chick – a male – will be fostered by the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines, as featured on BBC’s Springwatch. 

The dead parent birds have been sent for post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. A dead pigeon found beside the bodies has also been sent for analysis. 

West Mercia Police Wildlife Crime Officer PC David Walton said: "We urge anyone with information about the death of these magnificent birds to come forward, quoting incident ref 0676 S 30/5/17.

"I believe that, had it not been for the fast action of all parties working together, we would have certainly lost the chicks as well as the adults, which look to have been poisoned."
There are thought to be around 1500 pairs of peregrine falcons in the UK. They have just one brood per year of around 2-4 young, which fledge after five or six weeks. 

Tim Jones, RSPB investigations officer, attended the rescue. He said: “We are delighted that all three chicks, which are about three weeks old, have found foster homes. Parent birds will happily raise a new chick which joins the family if placed with other chicks of a similar age. We have done this several times before as a last resort and have every hope for their success.

“It’s heartbreaking to see two of the fastest birds in the world grounded like this. Probably the last thing the birds heard would have been their own chicks calling to them. These chicks, which still had their white, downy feathers, were unable to feed themselves or protect themselves from the elements, and would not have survived another few hours. So this whole family came within a hair’s breadth of being lost.

“But while this story thankfully had a happy outcome, other birds may not be so lucky.”
Tim added: “The public are instrumental in helping us locate wildlife crime, which is a persistent problem across the UK.”  

John Turner of Shropshire Peregrine Group said: “There is a strong feeling locally that this has gone on long enough. Clee Hill has a long history of peregrine persecution and this is not acceptable. We believe someone in the local community will know something, and urge them to contact the police. The Shropshire Peregrine Group is offering £1000 reward in exchange for information that leads to a conviction.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Shropshire Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx 

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