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Year 3 Visit Birds of Prey

09 June 2017

One sunny Wednesday before half term Year 3 went to see the peregrine falcons at St John’s Church in Bath. They live in a wooden box inside the window of the steeple of the church. We met Ed and Hamish who are wildlife experts.

We looked up at the church steeple and saw a long black bracket on the front of the nesting box. On the end of it is a camera. You can see the chicks inside the nest on a webcam, which you can access via the Hawk Owl Trust website. Hamish showed us the footage. He looks after the nest and gets to it by going up the staircase of the steeple and getting to the window where the chicks are.

Peregrine falcons lay their eggs (which are the size of a chicken egg) in a nest. When they hatch the chicks are white and fluffy. They have big eyes which don’t grow. When the chicks come out of the nest they are heavier than their parents. The mother starves the chick so that the chick loses weight and is able to fly more easily so it can find its own food (prey).

The Peregrines’ wings overlap which helps them to glide and to fly. They can glide from a height up to 200 mph. Their talons help them to catch prey. Their wing span is approximately as long as our arm span. Did you know that if you put a pigeon and a peregrine falcon together in a race the pigeon would win! Peregrines are slow flyers but very fast at swooping down.

Peregrine falcons eat other birds, for example: goldfinches, blackbirds, woodpeckers and pigeons. They don’t eat any of the birds that live on the church as they would hit the steeple as they swooped to catch them. They generally catch prey about a kilometre away from the church. Peregrines don`t eat feathers and they don’t eat other peregrines. A third of their diet is pigeons.

Food chains help to show us about predators and prey. An example of a food chain which includes a peregrine is:

  • Grass - producer
  • Worm - primary consumer
  • Thrush - small predator
  • Peregrines - top predator

Peregrines can live up to 17 years but sadly, sometimes they only live up to two years. Ed told us that there hasn`t been a peregrine older than 17. This year, the older brother from last year’s chicks is helping look after this year’s chicks, which is unusual.

These birds have rings put on their feet. One metal ring goes on the left foot and the other ring goes on the right foot. Ed and Hamish do it by squeezing the metal ring with pliers and it is looser than a ring you might wear on your finger. Each bird has a different set of letters.

We found out so much about peregrine falcons and it was really interesting to learn about these birds of prey that live in our city.

Amelia-Jane, Emilia and Thalia, Year 3

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