Peregrine Falcons

Welcome! Here you can learn about the St Michael’s Peregrine Falcons, and watch the nest box live during the breeding season from March to end of June each year.  The live stream video is further down this page…

UPDATE for 2020 – you will have noticed that the 3 eggs laid very late this year have not hatched, so, sadly, there will be no peregrine chicks here this year.

Nick Dixon writes:- “Our old male (who we believe had been resident since 2005) disappeared in August 2019 and this new male arrived at the Church in February but he has a very distinctive facial pattern and I am convinced I first saw him at St. M in November. He was seen daily from mid February but seemed very wary of entering the nest box with her. 

It wasn’t until 30 March that we finally saw both in the nest box doing various head down displays/pair bonding (which was a good sign but most sites already had a full clutch by then). I haven’t seen them copulating due to the lockdown and I’ve not heard any local watchers who have seen it either but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. 
So 1st egg was laid on 8 April, 2nd on 11 April then some half-hearted incubation followed and a week later she laid a 3rd on 18 April. An interesting year with the latest ever first egg date here and the longest gap between no. 2 and 3 eggs. The Exeter peregrines were the last pair in the country to lay eggs under a webcam this season.
Normal hatch for this female is 35 days from last egg which was the 23 May, which is well past and these eggs are not going to hatch now.
There are now only two eggs and we suspect one got broken early on 3 June and she ate it. It will be interesting to see how long they will sit these eggs before getting bored and abandoning them.
So sadly, we will not have young peregrines in the skies over Exeter this year for the first time in 24 years.”

Exeter Peregrine Group’s Flickr gallery holds amazing and unique images of these incredible birds.

Nick Dixon has produced a beautiful booklet on the History of our Peregrine Falcons, which has excellent photography and is available from Nick’s website.

During 2014-5 the wildlife charity Devon Birds generously sponsored the Peregrine streaming. Devon’s county bird society has a long and distinguished history dating back to 1928. Costs for live streaming are about £3 per day. Any donations are gratefully received and will help support St Michael’s in its diverse activities.

Peregrine Project

Live Webcam

St Michael’s Peregrines are probably the most productive and thoroughly researched family of nesting falcons in Devon. Read more about Peregrines in the U.K.   Browse our gallery for superb professional quality wildlife photography of these striking and beautiful birds, taken on site at St Michael’s, by members of the Exeter Peregrine Falcon Group.

Reaching recorded speeds in flight of over 150 mph in their hunting ‘stoop’ and with eyesight 8 times that of humans, these astonishing, acrobatic falcons have an enormous following worldwide. Here at St Michael’s, their appeal is no exception. Read more about Peregrines in Exeter, and Nick Dixon’s research in the History of Our Peregrines page.  Find out more about Peregrine breeding patterns at St Michael’s.

The Peregrine Project at St Michael’s broadcasts live camera footage from right inside the Peregrines’ nest box and shares this with the public at large. The Project is led by Nick Dixon working with Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows. Read more about them on our Research Team page.

Egg-laying usually takes place here in the week or so after the Spring Equinox, 20-29 March, a little later than some other sites. Three or four eggs are typically laid at intervals of about 56 hours. Incubation proper usually starts when the 3rd egg has been laid. It takes about 30-34 days before hatching, which usually occurs over just 1-2 days.  Early in June, at 6 weeks old, the young are nearly as large as the adults and fledge the nest box to take their first flights. The Peregrine family continues to roost in or near the nest box for several weeks as the juveniles learn to hunt for themselves.

In 2014 the young male was injured shortly after fledging, taken into care by the RSPCA, and re-homed, but failed to thrive and has died. Late in August, the female young HB was found injured and malnourished some 10 km west of Exeter.  Although taken to the RSPCA by Nick, she had to be put down; perhaps she had been seeking independence too early or got disorientated. At least we have evidence of the hard time juveniles have in their first year, where the survival rate is thought to be as low as 30%.

Raptor expert, NIck Dixon, and Exeter’s resident Peregrine Falcons here at St Michael’s Church featured on The One Show, BBC ONE, on Tue 14 October 2014.  The presenter concentrated on peregrine on buzzard attacks when the adults were protecting their territory during fledging of the juveniles back in June.  It was well worth a watch if interested in birds of prey and the St Michael’s Peregrines in particular, and had some beautiful and amazing footage of our birds.

Peregrine falcons are among the most magnificent and revered birds anywhere on earth. Their beauty, grace and terrifying predatory behaviour has made them the stuff of myth and legend; the consort of Princes and Kings. As high-status falconry birds in the Middle Ages, it was appropriate that in 2015 our Peregrines laid 3 eggs during the Richard III week, with a 4th egg laid on Mon 30th March; only 2 hatched, but they seemed healthy and strong. One male, JN, is now resident in Taunton with a female hatched at Bath Urban Peregrine Project.

2016′s 4 eggs were incubated for 5 weeks, 2 hatched, and after 6 weeks of feeding, growing, exploring the nest box, developing feathers, preening, and flexing their wings, the juveniles fledged, one on Mon 13 June, and the other on Wed 15 June. They seemed to be strong and were doing well until sadly, on Thu 28 July 2016, one juvenile was found dead in Paul Street, Exeter, apparently after a flying accident. The other male juvenile honed his skills around the Church with the adults, and he dispersed naturally to find new territory in late Autumn.

In 2017, again 2 of the 4 eggs hatched, and the young fledged successfully; as far as we know they dispersed naturally in late Autumn without further incident.

In November 2015 we had confirmation that one of our 2013 fledglings, found dead at the base of a mill chimney in Halifax, contained lead shot indicating that she had been illegally attacked somewhere between Exeter and Halifax before trying to establish a new natural urban nest site in West Yorkshire.

Videos

FAQ

  • What is the height of St Michael’s spire?
  • How many young do they have?
  • About how long are the young in the nest before they fly?
  • What makes the St Michael’s peregrines so special?
Find out the answers