Peregrine ringing in the Avon Gorge

Peregrine chick portrait

Ok, so I had intended to write something on this over a week ago, but somehow ended up going out birdwatching instead over the weekend…

The other week I was lucky enough to go along and watch peregrine chicks being ringed in the Avon Gorge, in Bristol. These fantastic birds of prey underwent sharp declines between the 1940s and 1970s, mainly as a result of illegal killing and pesticides such as DDT, which led to eggshell thinning and reproductive failure. Thankfully, the species is now recovering, and peregrines have been successfully breeding in the gorge since 1990.

The Bristol Ornithological Club has been organising Peregrine Watches in the gorge every year since 1991, helping to protect the nest and allowing visitors to watch the birds. This year the watches will be taking place on the 11/12th and 25/26th June – they’re well worth a visit!

This year’s peregrine chicks

This year, the pair in the gorge have hatched five beautiful chicks – a high number for peregrines, although five chicks were also raised here in 2008 and again in 2010. There seem to be two males and three females this year, and at the time of ringing they were quite varied in size, from a small male to a hefty female that weighed nearly a kilo!

The chicks were ringed by Ed Drewitt as part of a colour ringing project for peregrines, which aims to discover more about these birds, including where they go and how long they live. The chicks are ringed at about three weeks old, and are given a numbered metal ring from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), as well as a plastic colour ring that can be read at a distance, helping scientists to keep track of each individual.

Climber preparing to descend to the peregrine nest
Climber contemplating the descent to the peregrine nest
Peregrine chick with colour ring
Peregrine chick showing colour ring

On the day of ringing, it was blowing a gale at the top of the gorge, but this didn’t seem to deter the team of climbers, who bravely dropped over the edge of the cliff to reach the nesting ledge and bring the chicks up. I had never seen a peregrine before I moved to Bristol, so to have five downy peregrine chicks right in front of me was a real privilege – and they certainly seemed like mini-celebrities, attracting quite a crowd of onlookers!

Once ringed, weighed and measured, the chicks were soon safely back in the nest, and the adult male quickly came in with food for them. The peregrine chicks should be fledging over the coming weeks and I’m sure will already have changed a lot since these photos were taken – it’ll be great to see them leave the nest and venture out into the world.

More peregrine information

If you want to find out more about peregrines and other wildlife in the Avon Gorge, or about peregrines in general, take a look at:

You can also view a video clip of last year’s peregrine ringing, recorded for the BBC’s Springwatch.

Female peregrine flying
The mother peregrine, keeping a watchful eye

Ringed peregrine chick

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