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Falconers to be allowed to take young from peregrine falcon nests in UK (1 Viewer)

IAN JAMES THOMPSON

Well-known member
This is truly shocking news if true. Just seen that news in an article in the environmental section of the guardian. Don’t know how to post the link of that article. Hopefully someone else will be able to do so. I’m just to upset to post about that or to continue any more talking about that. It’s just so upsetting!!
Ian.
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
I cannot believe this is allowed by law. It's pure disgusting and that law that allows it needs to be removed.

Sickening.
 

IAN JAMES THOMPSON

Well-known member
I’m just so upset by this. When I saw that article just before I started this thread I was so shocked that this was going to be allowed to happen. I’ve also posted about this on the RSPB Forums and also posted about this to my local RSPB Group Facebook website.
Ian.
 

IAN JAMES THOMPSON

Well-known member
It’s actually interesting reading Mark Averys blog as it seems birds of prey chicks are allowed by law to taken by falconers in a limited capacity if given permission by Natural England according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Again if someone can give a link to the blog I'll be most grateful.
Ian.
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
I’m just so upset by this. When I saw that article just before I started this thread I was so shocked that this was going to be allowed to happen. I’ve also posted about this on the RSPB Forums and also posted about this to my local RSPB Group Facebook website.
Ian.


Good Ian. Glad you did that.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
This is alarming in principle but we need to see this in a bit more context.

There are strict rules laid down here which means that the falconers would only be allowed to take a bird which would probably not survive anyway if left in the nest and just six birds maximum.

I'm not defending it but it won't, or shouldn't, affect the Peregrine population at all.
 
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JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
Does anyone know where these Peregrines will end up being used? Is there an additional conservation impact of what they'll be used to hunt for?
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I can't see any justification for this and I can see several negative factors:

- even if the bird is not likely to survive, it would become a food resource for the remaining chicks and its removal therefore reduces possible nest success: it should be left there and Nature allowed to take its course

- if the bird is used to hunt live prey, whatever the species, it is taking some of the finite prey resource available to wild Peregrines and other BOP/terrestrial predators

- if the bird is flown within extant Peregrine territories there is physical risk to both it and wild Peregrines from clashes, plus while they are being distracted by the interloper they are not concentrating on their primary concerns (time is also a finite resource for the individual)

In addition it makes a nonsense of any claim that falconers' birds are captive bred and therefore not relevant to wild population conservation. Also, is there a fee payable and if so, to whom? Surely the open market price of a Peregrine should be paid to the relevant County Trust....

Well done Ian for spotting it.

John
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
At first I thought I would not reply to this thread as my feelings on falconry are very strong and I was afraid I would say things that would be perceived as inappropriate and offensive. But this is Birdforum, which is about WILD birds and so I figured that most fellow “BFers”, would understand my point of view.

I also thought that most people are not aware of the extent of the damage that the medieval practice of falconry is inflicting on wild populations of some species of BOPs in Europe and worldwide.

I had already expressed my thoughts on the matter in a post in the Conservation forum last year that went mostly unnoticed, or at least nobody commented on it, possibly because the Conservation forum is so swamped with pseudo-science that the relevant threads become almost invisible and most people avoid it.

My thoughts on the matter have not changed, actually each year I am angrier about what is happening with the European Lanner Falcon, whose numbers are plummeting (this subspecies is due to become extinct in the next 5-10 years, if the current trend continues) also because of the illegal trade in chicks stolen from the few active nests remaining. :C

Some of you will have noticed the announcement that was posted a couple of months ago, seeking volunteers to staff surveillance camps at Lanner nesting sites in Italy. Obviously, due to the pandemic, the camps have been cancelled with the result that one of the nests, which days before the beginning of lockdown had at least 3 eggs, is now empty. In another nest cameras were put in place and all is well for the time being, but there was no time to install cameras in the other sites. :-C

Last year both sites held 3 healthy chicks each and they ALL disappeared over a couple of days: predation? Human predation most likely: what are the odds of both nests (about 100 km apart) being wiped out by natural predators at the same time? The pattern has been the same over the last 10 years or so, with the result that of the estimated 150-170 breeding pairs in Italy in 2007 there are now around 45-70 pairs.

The numbers speak for themselves. Also the cruelty inflicted on wild creatures as you can see in the photos below (sorry if they are somewhat upsetting, but this is precisely why I am posting them) and in this video, where falcons have had their eyes sewn shut.

Also, I am not questioning the fact that some chicks may not survive etc. (although we have seen broods of 3-4 chicks fledge successfully several times), but the fact that the practice itself should be banned and not seen as a “cultural heritage”. Bull***t if you ask me.

I have nothing more to say, I will just quote a passage from the Guardian article linked above, which completely echoes my feelings on the matter:

Jade Emery, wildlife campaigner for Animal Aid, said it was “a huge step backwards” for wild bird protection.
She said: “While Natural England attempt to dignify falconry by describing it as ‘an ancient tradition’, it is in fact just outdated. Taking animals from the wild and subjugating them for entertainment or sport is fundamentally wrong, should be consigned to history, and is certainly not something that should be supported by Natural England. The wellbeing of these majestic birds should be prioritised over this outdated and cruel hobby, and this decision should be quickly reversed.”
 

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Patudo

Well-known member
The press statement from Natural England can be found here: https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2020/04/16/natural-england-issues-licences-for-taking-peregrine-falcons-from-the-wild-for-falconry/

The key points of interest:

  • Number of licenses issued - three

  • Number of young allowed to be taken in total - six

  • Intended purpose - "to form a breeding programme with the other licensees."

Key conditions of license:

- young may only be taken from nests with three or more chicks
- smallest (weakest) chick must be taken from the nest
- applicants need to be able to demonstrate appropriate expertise and provision for the welfare of young taken, etc.

Rationale:

- to breed "verifiably British peregrines for use in their falconry activities";
- because "that birds already held in captivity cannot provide verifiably British birds."
- considered a sustainable use of species to fulfil cultural requirements (part of the European Commission’s Wild Birds Directive), providing this does not affect their conservation status.

----------------------------

The two most important factors relevant to the UK government's decision seem to me to be:

Impact on the UK peregrine population -

Ratcliffe's book (The Peregrine Falcon, second ed.), gives the following historic numbers for UK peregrine breeding pairs - ie. not including non-breeders/floating birds:

  • 1930-1939 (prior to World War II reduction measures) -1100 pairs (Britain and Ireland)
  • 1961-1962 (height of the pesticide crash)- 44% of pre-war levels
  • Early 1990s - 1265 pairs

  • This number has since increased to 1769 pairs in 2014 (BTO 2014 peregrine survey).

Mortality rates have been estimated at about 30% for first-year birds, 25% for second-year birds and around 19% for fully adult birds. (Ratcliffe)

Given the above figures, the removal of six young in one year from the UK peregrine population has to be considered pretty insignificant - this species in the UK is not threatened/endangered to remotely the same extent as eg. the Bonelli's eagle in its European distribution or the Lanner in Italy. Illegal persecution likely accounts for a good deal more than six deaths in each of the most heavily affected UK regions.


Rationale for granting licenses etc.

More controversial than the numbers in question is the intended purpose for which the six young licensed per year are to be taken, and the rationale behind granting the licenses. Both are worth a thorough examination.

The purpose of taking these six young is, per the Natural England site:

  • to breed "verifiably British peregrines for use in their [the licensees] falconry activities";
  • and the licenses issued on the basis "that birds already held in captivity cannot provide verifiably British birds."

I appreciate that falconry - the hunting of wild quarry with trained birds of prey, as distinct from raptor-keeping and captive breeding - and its associated impact on wild bird of prey populations is a controversial subject. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that I have no objections to taking six young from the UK peregrine population on the conditions set out under the Natural England license for falconry as historically practised by British falconers.

I do however question the need for "verifiably British" birds, and the intention to use the wild-taken young for captive breeding. Historically, peregrines flown for falconry in the UK came from both British nests (juveniles captured just before fledging) and from Europe (the Netherlands, in particular, supplying many first-year juveniles captured "on passage" in the autumn. During the age of Empire a smaller number of peregrines of non-European subspecies came from assorted regions of the Empire, mostly the Indian sub-continent. Although young from certain UK locations (eg. Lundy) were formerly highly prized, British falconers flying peregrines have never confined themselves to "verifiably British" birds.

Captive breeding, likewise, has never been part of the historic falconry scene - which must be considered key to this issue as "ancient tradition", "cultural heritage" are given such prominence in the UK government decision and the EC Wild Birds Directive. The successful captive breeding of peregrines and other large falcons only came about in the 1960s, driven by the pesticide crash. Prior to the pesticide crash falconers obtained their birds from the wild, and kept them only for hunting.


To conclude my thoughts:

  • Taking six young peregrines specifically for falconry - training them for flights at grouse, corvids, gulls, duck - I could not object to, providing licenses were issued to individuals with the experience and wherewithal to fly peregrines regularly at those quarry species (a demanding requirement, as not many individuals have the requisite combination of resources, time and ability). The numbers in question are small enough for the UK peregrine population to easily withstand (and a good percentage are likely to return to the wild after straying, etc.), and the intended purpose accords with historic UK falconry practice.

  • Taking six young peregrines for captive breeding - although on the one hand the numbers involved and consequent impact on the population are exactly the same, the motives and purposes for which the birds are intended for demand close scrutiny because captive breeding is a significant depature from falconry as historically practised. Taking young birds for breeding stock aimed at producing birds for eg. the lucrative Arab market could not in any sense be deemed to "fulfil cultural requirements". Even if young birds produced are intended for UK and European falconers, the use of captive-bred young is not part of the historic culture of European falconry.

----------------------------

I wonder if the same individuals applying for licenses would still be interested if the following additional conditions were imposed:

- that licensees would have to collect the birds themselves (as I think is the case in the United States - where the US Fish & Wildlife Service considers that 144 first year individuals - as of 2017 - could be taken);

- that birds taken could be bred from in the off-season, but had to be flown at wild quarry unless and until incapacitated due to injury etc.


[TL; DR] - Falconers taking six young peregrines from UK nests is something I could live with, so long as the birds were flown at wild quarry regularly, and the license-holders went over the cliffs or buildings themelves...
 
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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Regarding the breeding programme, I assume the falconers want at least a couple of either sex, at what age can Peregrines be sexed? They could end up with six males or six females so I assume they already have a stcok of pure, UK birds?
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
What I am questioning is the legitimacy of falconry "as an ancient tradition" in the first place, and in a wider, worldwide context, as it's obvious that 6 birds won't affect the overall numbers of the Peregrine population in the UK.

But if you make it a legitimate heritage-related activity you can't object to the same activity taking place elsewhere (i.e. in the Arab world) to much less stringent standards and without any means of effectively knowing what is actually going on, which is what is happening in Italy as well, where there isn't a long-standing tradition of prosecuting wildlife crimes (there are most important things to think about is their thinking) and poaching is rife.

I also question the whole idea of taking wild birds and raising them in captivity for leisure, fun, sport, call it what you like. You have seen the photos above and I ask you if this is a fate that you would wish on any creature, wild or not.
 

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