Welcome! Here you can learn about St Michael’s Peregrine Falcons.
Please note that last year 2022 the web cam inside the next box, behind the trefoil window within the spire, was turned off as our new resident pair had their eggs outside of the spire, on the east ledge and were the proud parents of three chicks! We are very keen to hear of any current activity in or around the internal nest box, so please contact us if you have any peregrine news to share.
Exeter Peregrine Group’s Flickr gallery holds wonderful images of these incredible birds. Devon’s peregrine expert Nick Dixon has produced a beautiful booklet on the History of St Michael’s Peregrine Falcons, available from his website.
Spring 2023 update – coming soon…
Spring 2022 update – Nick Dixon confirmed that the new breeding pair is very active around the external east ledge, and breeding behaviour has been observed from here this Spring. We look forward to images and sightings from the bird-watching community in and around Mount Dinham.
Winter 2021 update – There is a new pair of adult birds present at the church. We are hoping they will breed in the spring.
Spring 2021 update – Our resident female would previously lay her eggs in early April, however there are no signs yet this year. The two unhatched eggs from last year have remained in the nest box over the winter, as it has been difficult to gain access to the nest box during the pandemic to clear them.
Nick Dixon on 2020: “Sadly, we have had no young peregrines in the skies over Exeter this year (2020) for the first time in 24 years. Our old male (who we believe had been resident since 2005) disappeared in August 2019 and a new male arrived at the Church in February of 2020, or possibly early in November 2019.
It wasn’t until 30 March 2020 that we finally saw both the female and new male in the nest box doing various head down displays of pair bonding (which was a good sign, but most nest 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 the first egg was laid on 8 April, the second on 11 April then some half-hearted incubation followed and a week later she laid a third egg on 18 April. An interesting year with the latest ever first egg date here and the longest gap between nos. 2 and 3 eggs. The Exeter peregrines were the last pair in the country to lay eggs under a webcam this season.”
When the birds are breeding in the nest box behind the trefoil in the spire, they are visible via the web cam from March to the end of June each year. The live stream video source is further down this page.
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 royalty and noblemen and women.
St Michael’s Peregrines are probably the most productive and thoroughly researched family of nesting falcons in Devon. Browse our Gallery for superb professional quality wildlife photography of these striking and beautiful birds, taken on site 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 and other information and research publications with the public at large. The Project is led by raptor expert Nick Dixon working with Jason Fathers, of Wildlife Windows.
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.
Nick and St Michael’s resident Peregrine Falcons were 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 for those interested in birds of prey and the St Michael’s Peregrines in particular, and had some beautiful and amazing footage of our birds.”
Read Nick Dixon’s illustrated articles about St Michael’s Peregrines;
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.
Incubation usually 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%.
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.
Tragically, in November 2015 we had confirmation that one of our 2013 fledglings, was found dead at the base of a mill chimney in Halifax. Her body 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.
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.
For the full text of Nick Dixon’s research, see the History of Our Peregrines.