Guest blog – taking Peregrines from the wild for falconry by Gary Wall

Mark writes: Gary Wall is a falconer and I’m grateful that he took up my offer to write about the licence he has been issued by Natural England to take a small number of Peregrine Falcons from the wild. This blog gives more detail and background.

Gary writes: Having been a falconer for 47 years and running a large commercial falcon-breeding project for many years, which bred falcons for the Middle East market, it’s given me a deep understanding of falconry’s cultural heritage and the dynamics of the global trade in falcons that is, in the main, focused on the Middle East market.

When I started breeding falcons in the mid 1980s it was still pretty much in its infancy, many raptor populations around the world had crashed due to agricultural pesticides and Defra, or the DOE as it was then, had brought in a registration scheme to monitor the captive bred population. I also recognise at that time Peregrines were being taken illegally by people with connections to falconry, some likely trafficking birds to the Middle East. Two things stopped this, in the late 1980s, DNA fingerprinting came into play and probably more importantly the courts locked three people up for selling illegally-taken birds. This was a big wake-up call for those that thought taking birds from the wild wasn’t a big deal.

By the mid 1990s the supply of imported birds was minimal and the focus on captive breeding increased but I dont think falconer breeders really appreciated how 20 years later it would become a complete science, with the question of “can we breed?” gone and replaced by “how many do we want to breed?”.  So now falconers had the knowledge but had little understanding of where the original source of their birds came from. As far as Peregrines are concerned there were some birds that had come into captivity due to court cases, and some old lines that were considered “British” from when registration started in 1982, some taken on licence from Scotland, likely some laundered. From these the F1 production were quite often used for breeding Gyr x Peregrine hybrids by professional breeders with little understanding that the source, usually smaller hobby breeders, was going to dry up at some point.

Over this period there were no pedigrees kept and maybe Defra’s registration scheme was thought of as a source of traceability but that hasn’t been the case, after spending something like 4 million pounds trying to update their software system (which failed), their ability to supply any in-depth information on a bird’s history is minimal.  Early 2000s, at the time I retired, Arab falcon racing started and suddenly the demand for falcons went through the roof, including their value, captive-bred female Peregrines went from £800 – £1000 to £5000 – £6000, not good for conservation of the species and not good for British falconers who were then left with either flying hybrids or smaller sub-species of Peregrines, that weren’t so desirable in the Gulf, like Spanish “brookie” peregrines or “Barbary” peregrine crosses.

After years of the frustration of not knowing the origin of breeding stock, and having plenty of time on my hands, I started to think about what I could do with the 47 years of knowledge I’d built of falconry and captive breeding that would also have a conservation benefit and came up with the plan to create a stud book population of native Peregrines that could be used for falconry, reducing the risk of genetic pollution, and providing British falconers with a native source of birds that would reconnect with their cultural heritage, hopefully giving many of the new generations coming into falconry a better understanding of how important healthy populations of wild raptors are to falconry.  

My initial approach was to SNH, every time I supplied the information they required they just moved the goal posts. I went with it because at that time I was still unsure of the legal issues. In 2017 I had a meeting with SNH but requested that Scot Gov was involved as I had concerns over “policy” matters. At that meeting Hugh Dignon told me that I may be unaware of European regulations and case law from the European Court of Justice so I took that on board and went away and researched it. I discovered “other satisfactory solutions” wasn’t as simple as it sounds, the principle of proportionality comes into play, also the “precautionary” principle plays a part.

The court judgement of the 2015 buzzard judicial review also had some important points relating to proportionality and derogation under Section 16 of the WCA. On top of this the GB Invasive Non Native Species Strategy encourages stakeholder to use native species, the UN Convention on Biodiversity and related Aachi Target focus on sustainable cultural use and the importance of protecting culturally valuable species from genetic pollution, but still SNH wasn’t interested and it was quite shocking to me that a government authority has so little understanding of the law, with biologists making decisions without any competent legal advice.  So now I’d seriously considered taking SNH to judicial review because they had no answers for any of my legal points but I thought first I’d try Natural England as now I knew exactly what I was talking about, on the subject of falconry, captive breeding and the law. Initial contact wasn’t good, I was told an application was unlikely to be successful but I submitted one anyway, to create a stud book population of captive bred native peregrines with the gateway into a breeding cooperative, known as the British Peregrine Conservancy, to be the licensee. Initial take over ten years to create a foundation stock with the aim to keep this of birds of F2 or below, further wild take when needed to prevent inbreeding and to make sure “natural selection” plays a role in our captive population.  After dealing with juniors for 2 or 3 months I eventually ended up with a senior manager and we spent the next 19 months going over every single fine detail but they have a different attitude to SNH and over time there was a mutual respect built up, and I would have been prepared to walk away if they could prove to me what I was trying to do wasn’t compliant with the law but they couldn’t and eventually understood that first and foremost my reason for trying to do this was a deep passion for raptor conservation and an appreciation that falconry can have a positive effect if people work together.

I sympathise with your fight against raptor persecution but hope you’ll appreciate falconry used to be included in the gamekeepers, pigeon fanciers, egg collectors………. and falconers group of those that had a negative effect on wild population. A minority were dealt with by the courts and attitudes changed, we as a group have got our act together and now we have the knowledge to do something positive. If people believe wild animals should be left in the wild then there’s not much I can say but if people really care about conservation they will have a better understand of the threat on the environment and how important captive breeding is for the future, which doesn’t look great right now! The British Peregrine breeding population is now around 2000 pairs, similar to the Teal breeding population, I believe this is the right time to do this for both falconry and the future conservation of the species.  

There’s a condition exempting Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham, parts of the Pennines and Yorkshire. Notification has to be given in advance of any take, land owner’s permission supplied, compliance with guidance in “A field guide for studies and monitoring”, minimum of 3 chicks in a nest. 


148 Replies to “Guest blog – taking Peregrines from the wild for falconry by Gary Wall”

  1. No. Absolutely not. Enough with meddling with wild animals for the profit and gratification of a select few. It is immoral. It is wrong . Stop it.

    1. Ho Lori, protectionism isn’t conservation, most conservation bodies manage wildlife, I’m just trying to protection the wild population and keep falconers in touch with their cultural heritage. Some of the first conservation laws here several hundred years ago where to protect raptors so their populations were sustainable so could be used for falconry.

        1. My thoughts exactly. Just because it is “traditional” or cultural heritage doesn’t make it right. I want to know how much money he is making out if this

          1. Not making anything Phil, in fact it will cost us a lot of personal investment to achieve our aim. I find it sad that people will question someone’s integrity without knowing anything about them. I was pleasantly surprised that Mark has given me the opportunity to provide more detail and address peoples issues.

        2. No, we have to invest personal funding to achieve our aim, there is no commercial interest, zero !

      1. Your wrong.

        All conservation bodies manage wildlife because there’s money in it for them.
        You can’t compare the idealism of the origins of the RSPB with the manifestation it is today, or the elitism of medieval aristocrats, who severely dealt with peasants interfering in their sport.

        Protectionism works – this Farm is living proof. All of us on this Farm are protectionist, and no one gets to interfere with wildlife that abounds on this Farm.

        By all means have captive breed peregrines; these birds are very well cared for.

        If you and NE want to protect peregrines, then combine to have nesting platforms in every suitable church and high building in our towns, or get the Electricity Board to install platforms on the pylons. Or better still prosecute those individuals who climbed the cliff in March at Portland to the eyrie.

        1. Its hard to respond to people who base their opinions on emotions but I’m okay with that, most people dont have the experience or understanding of the subject I have.

        2. Thomas – you keep referring to your wonderful farm but no-one here knows where it is or whether it actually exists. Would you like to write a guest blog about it?

        3. “All conservation bodies manage wildlife because there’s money in it for them.”

          This is a patently absurd statement Thomas. You may take issue with the way the RSPB and other conservation bodies are run or with the approach they take to this or that issue and I am certainly not going to argue that they get everything right but it is nonsense to suggest that the aim of everything they do is simply to make more money for themselves. To take one simple example, the RSPB has some big ‘honey-pot’ nature reserves like Minsmere and Leighton Moss which undoubtedly bring in a lot of cash to the organisation but they also have dozens of reserves up and down the country with no shop, no turnstile at the entrance or any other means of lightening the wallets of visitors. These reserves cost money to buy and manage and are maintained not for their revenue earning potential but because they protect the habitats they contain and the species living within those habitats.

          The problem with your oft-repeated insistence that, apart from yourself, everyone involved in conservation is a ‘plank’ or a ‘cone-head’ with dubious motives is that it makes it harder to take anything else you say seriously.

      2. What cultural heritage?

        Lots of things used to be cultural but are now considered unacceptable. Your hobby is one of them.

      3. Mr Wall your statement is full of inaccuracies and contradictions you state “Cultural Heritage” as you are no doubt aware “Falconry” in the UK doesn’t have the status or recognised as part of UNESCO because the UK hasn’t signed up to the agreement.

        You also fully admit you’re a retired commercial falcon breeder breeding and hacking hybrid falcons for the Arabs. A market and industry you were part of!

        If you’re concerned about the Peregrine gene pool then why were you breeding and hacking hybrid falcons which in itself can have a significant impact on the genetics of wild populations?

        You’re part of the problem and your industry that has contributed to this. I put it to you Mr Wall that this has nothing whatsoever to do with conservation far from it but a selfish greed on your part who’s solely motivated by money.

        1. UN’s Convention on Biodiversity, Article 10, related Aachi targets 13 & 18 ! Article 2 of the EU Birds Directive, GB Invasive Non Natives Species Strategy, IUCN ‘s policy on captive breeding, CMS statement on captive breeding, Cites. All positive to sustainable cultural use of natural resources !

        2. So where do you think a culture that has trapped migrating falcons from for hundreds of years will get their falcons from if they cant buy captive bred falcons ? Saudi Arabia has a veto on all falcon species within Cites and still uses wild trapped falcons. UAE have spent the last 20 years encouraging their people to use captive bred birds. Trouble is Martin, you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about !

          1. What has the Middle East culture got to to do with that of the UK ? You can hide behind any directive you like Gary ,doesn’t change a thing though does it. Your motives are clear for all to see ,this has nothing whatsoever to do with conservation .Breeding hybrid falcons in your past hardly constitutes conservation of a species, quite the opposite in fact and a detriment to our native species. Why would you care about that though ? You’re a complete hypocrite !

  2. Thanks for the honesty.


    Sorry but i have no sympathy for your position at all.
    Just because their is a new demand somewhere in the world….really?

    Natural England should be ashamed of their licence.

    1. Hi Circus, look how we are all effected by what happened in China, unfortunately we have to deal with global issues nowadays. I’m just trying to do my bit, I understand your point of view because you haven’t seen the problems first hand like I have, hopefully I can do something that will be positive for our native population.

      1. I see your point…there is a war in Yemen, so we should not only supply the weapons, but we should supply the most effective weapons. Not a moral position that is supported by many.

  3. I am not convinced by this long winded load of bull, designed to confuse,could have used far fewer words.
    The 19 months spent with this ‘Senior Manager’ in NA sounds haiky to me
    This one manager should not have the power to overrule the junior managers
    How was this was allowed, one guy making the decision is just wrong
    All for money IMO
    Surely you’ve done well enough Sir out of supplying the Arab market during the boom years?
    Not a single thought for those poor imprisoned creatures, stolen, sold on and confined to a life of slavery
    Disgusted with Natural England
    Please leave our wild creatures alone

    1. Ho Johanna, sorry about the long email I sent Mark, I could actually write a book on the whole thing so its not easy to reduce it to an email hence you’ve taken it to be all down to a single manager and that wasn’t the case, it went to their senior committee several times and a lot of legal input from lawyers etc. There’s no commercial interests in this, indeed, falconers will have to invest several thousand pounds in taking, managing and building aviaries with no financial gain. The IUCN encourages governments to do this kind of thing but sadly the funding just isn’t there so the falconry community will invest the time, energy and finance required to achieve something that’s positive for the conservation of our native population.

      1. I think it would be great if you did write a book on this topic, Gary. I’m especially interested in the issue of genetic pollution and how your work aims to correct this problem. I often wondered how imported stock from questionable sources can affect wild populations so this is very interesting to me. Also if you could talk a bit on hybrids such as, can they successfully breed with native birds and so on?

  4. Conservation of the species, load of toss!
    They will conserve themselves perfectly well if the government and police actually did something about the criminals, oh, I mean gamekeepers that are wiping them out from our uplands!

    1. Hi Daniel, the breeding population in the 1930’s was around 600 pairs, after the crash of the 60’s / 70’s the 1991 census indicated around 650 pairs and the BTO described at the time as a “super recovery”. The 2014 census shows nearly 1800 pairs and likely over 2000 pairs now and the BTO are questioning whether they’ll continue with the census. When government stopped licensing around 1989 they didn’t understand the genetic make up of the British captive population and how the dynamics of the global falcon market would influence captive breeding and what was being flown for falconry. Raptor persecution is as much as an issue for falconers as it is yourself, some of us have have also had our birds killed. As yet, I have played a part in putting 5 peregrines back into the wild and taken none.

  5. What are the quarry species of captive peregrines? I hope not teal, garganey, knot or turtle doves.

    1. Hi James, the main ones are grouse, partridge, pheasant and duck, also crows and magpies, within whatever the law allows. I also have a fascination with waterfowl myself, Teal being a particular favourite and spend many hours watching them on local lochs.

  6. Captive breeding hasn’t stopped the theft of wild birds though has it.
    Little Owls and Barn Owls frequently raided by captive breeders.
    I, myself have caught and held until police arirval two individuals in Northamptonshire and one that ‘got away’. Also Jeffrey Lendum seems quite keen on still stealing eggs from nests of not just peregrines.
    I worked for a while as a volunteer at The Raptor Foundation in Ely, Cambs. The amount of birds taken into care via either being ‘dropped off’ on the doorstep or those via court cases is huge and unfortunately unscrupulous breeders where profits before welfare is a big issue.
    Out of curiosity have you tried them for any help with a dna database as I know they have one for Barn Owls so might have one for peregrines too

    1. Interesting that you volunteered for the raptor foundation. What did you think of it? I lived very close to this facility and having been a falconer for many years and involved in raptor conservation, I have rarely seen a facility in such a terrible state. Enclosures were filthy and birds very often in terrible condition. Staff were arrogant and Ill informed. If this is your benchmark, then I fear your comments here are irrelevant.

    2. Hi Douglas,
      given the availability of captive bred barn and little owls at reasonable costs someone would have to have no understanding of the penalties for such a crime if they’re going to take that risk but then whatever walk of life these days there’s a criminal element who dont care. I do care and have put hundreds of hours researching everything i can on this, backed with many years of experience. As I’ve stated in my email to Mark, the value of captive bred female peregrines is a conservation issue right now because the rewards are very high but the courts have also made it clear in the past anyone taking and selling wild raptors will face a jail sentence so the message is clear. The lower the value of birds to British falconers will reduce the risk of illegal take.
      We’re still in the infancy of genetic testing, many of the “subspecies” classification go back hundreds of years, F.p.peregrinus to 1771 but with DNA analysis subspecies will be consigned to history, we’ll know exactly what relationship our wild populations have and I want to be apart of that and will endeavour to work with biologists undertaking genetic studies.

  7. May as well grant licences to abduct any wild animal for the purposes of entertainment.

    1. Hi Coop, not sure entertainment is the right word, many of us have a deep understanding of raptor species and the cultural importance falconry has played in Britain’s heritage. Becoming a raptors hunting partner is something very special and needs to be experienced to be understood.

      1. Gary, I understand your point of view and you have put it across very well – more especially in your replies to comments. The problem is that you, and for the sake of argument, I, start from wildly differing viewpoints on wild birds and falconry. You see it as a vibrant and important part of our (and other countries’) cultural heritage that ought to be preserved and encouraged, and you have seen a way in which you think it can play an important part in conservation of Peregrines. From my perspective it is just another outmoded “field sport” that, from any moral standpoint should be outlawed, such as driven grouse shooting, cockfighting, bear baiting, fox hunting, hare coursing, etc (I’m aware that some of those are illegal). The practice of “owning” a wild creature for pleasure (yours) is a very old human one. There is no doubt that at the top of these practices the animals are well cared for – but that is really irrelevant to the argument of whether they should be in captivity. Equally, there is no doubt that that is not the case throughout and that the illegal procurement of “new stock” from the wild is part and parcel of all such practices. In my opinion, this idea should have been dismissed quite early on – possibly not from a legal point of view (but then the law is an ass) but from the obvious moral one. Please think again. Are you doing it for the conservation of Peregrines or for the benefit of yourself and the “cultural importance falconry has played in Britain’s heritage.”?

        1. Like I’ve said to others Andy, its hard to address emotional responses, if that’s what you believe then there’s not much I can say. I’m a realist, have travelled around the world, seen first hand the environmental and wildlife conservation issues, been there at pretty much the infancy of captive breeding, something that’s saved many species around the world with many raptor re-introduction project run by falconers. Protectionism isn’t conservation, anyone, including NGO’s who stands as a conservation body manage wildlife, with it many more species would become instinct, I have the ability to make a difference and I’m proud of the cultural heritage of falconry and what falconers have done for conservation. Most people just sit and complain and that’s all !

          1. Gary, You’ve made a few presumptions there about me and my involvement in conservation both in the UK and other parts of the world! Captive breeding is very much the last resort for any species. It usually means (or should do) that all other conservation efforts have failed. In addition, it is pointless to have a captive breeding programme if the factors (such as habitat loss, persecution, availability of food etc.) that caused the decline in the first place have not been addressed. You seem to think my response was an emotional one. It wasn’t. Falconers ofetn wax lyrical about the “bond” with “their birds”. I think you should look closer to home for emotional reactions. I’m under no illusions that anything I say will chnage your view on this but I will fight to the end your proposal simply because it has no place in conservation.

      2. Undoubtedly it would be special, Mr Wall. BUT not for the raptor, I’m sure! Rather for the singular gratification of the human partner, from start to finish!

        And incidentally, being of ‘cultural importance’ doesn’t make it right. Much of Britain’s cultural heritage is far from decent.

        When will people stop this revolting belief that we humans have the right to use any other species for entertainment in this way – for that is really what it is when all’s said and done? Or for so-called sport or ‘something very special [that] needs to be experienced to be understood’: quite an irresponsible comment in itself!

        1. I agree with a lot of respondents to this misguided – as I see it – project, but I’m emotional – however, Diane, you put it exceptionally well.

        2. Hi Diana, guess you haven’t seen and experienced what I have so wont understand the issues. I try to educate people but quite often people aren’t interested in the facts, just prefer to see the world through rose tinted glasses.
          Falconry is about more than hunting with a raptor, its very much a partnership and gives a deep understanding of these amazing creatures. All I can do is operate within the law and do what I believe is right !

      3. Despite your attempt to paint your activity as something else, entertainment is exactly the right word.

  8. The future conservation of the species? Really! Pull the other one, Mr Wall and keep your money-grubbing hands off our wild raptors.

    1. Sorry you feel like that Sandra, I’m trying to do what I can to use my knowledge and experience to protect wild populations and our cultural heritage.

      1. Your interference, Gary, is not required or desirable to protect wild populations. This is just a self-justification for pursuing your own agenda. As for protecting ‘cultural heritage’, I’ve heard some flannel in my time but I’ll give you a gold star for that one.

        1. You’re entitled to your point of view, sorry you cant find it within you to consider the facts and make some effort to understand the issues this particular species faces.

          1. Do you mean real facts, Gary, or the ‘facts’ according to you and the other falconers involved in this supposedly essential conservation project? Strange that nobody in conservation circles has highlighted this urgent need before.

  9. Well done Garry. Your determination has paid off. I beleive a wild take of species such as peregrine and sparrowhawks has been viable for a number of years. It would be good for more licences to be issued to allow falconers to fly wild taken birds for a couple of years prior to release back into the wild, as most ey added don’t survive their first winter. Congratulations

    1. Hi Malcolm, falconers have acted very responsibly and, as Ratcliffe points out in his book on the Peregrine, many accepted access to wild populations should be temporarily closed while recovery was taking place after the crash the 60’s/70’s and many assisted with protecting the recovery.
      Natural mortality rate is also important to keep in mind, something like 75% of first year birds perish in their first winter so given this percentage its highly like any bird taken will have a much longer life and contribute to the conservation of the species.

      1. I don’t follow the logic here. What if the wild chicks you naively take were actually destined to be part of the 75 % that are naturally selected against? Why would one want to be captive breeding from these, for their artificially long lives, and releasing their offspring back into the wild? Surely this would be detrimental to the wild gene pool?

  10. Mr Wall used to breed and rear falcons, primarily for the export to the Middle East; I assume that he still is in that line of business.
    He also sells falcons online.
    Exporting and selling falcons is for profit.
    Now Mr Wall has turned conservationist.
    I find that hard to believe.

    1. Hi Sonja, maybe if you’d have read my email Mark posted you’d have had a better understanding of the facts. I retired in 2011, its the issues I came across during many years of running a commercial falcon breeding project that have inspired me to do something about it.
      We have had several horses put down with joint problems and a dog with a hip replacement, would you prefer to see captive bred falcons suffer in the same way ?

    2. The Wildlife & Wetland Trust at Slimbridge was created by Peter Scott. Peter Scott was an avid hunter and wildfowler who shot hundreds of ducks and geese in his time. However simultaneously he also had a deep passion for conserving wildfowl and this is often a very difficult concept for many people to grasp. Falconers around the world from Mongolia to the USA have always had very intimate relationships with wild raptors. It is a subject that until it touches you will be often beyond comprehension. I would recommend the open minded and curious should read H is for Hawk, a book by Helen MacDonald where this unique connection between human and wild bird is depicted perfectly. Falconry has never exploited wild raptors in a deleterious way. The practise has delivered something very unique and something that many overlook. That is a deeper connection with the natural world. Falconers were responsible for the rescue of the peregrine in North America after the crippling use of organochlorine pesticides. Indeed it was UK falconer in the 1960’s, Sir Dick Treleveam who had spent most of his life monitoring peregrines in Cornwall who brought the declines of British peregrines to the attention of the authorities and wider conservation groups. Falconers in the UK have, through legislation and voluntary desire been pushed further and further away from wild raptors and this has meant a huge disconnect that exists now amongst contemporary falconers and wild hawks. Captive breeding has resulted in non indigenous birds becoming more popular and hybrids are now ubiquitous. This is not good for conservation long term. Skills, knowledge and expertise with our wild raptors are all lost when domesticated raptors become the only hawks available for falconry. These are the skills that are proving to be essential in the rehabilitation of wild raptors around the world. I will end by urging the emotive individuals who object to this project to try and understand that their level of emotion is equalled by that of the falconer for his/her subject. Respect for each other’s impassioned sentiments should be appreciated. Mr. Wall should at least be allowed the opportunity to deliver what he promises and the outcomes and impacts be assessed in due course.

      1. Darren – thank you for your first comment here. Peter Scott gave up wildfowling remember – there is a moving account of that in his autobiogrphy ‘Eye of the Wind’.

  11. Thank you, Gary, for taking the time to write this.

    I have read it, and re-read it, and I still cannot ascertain how taking a few peregrines from the wild in Britain will help with their conservation in Britain. From what I understand from your piece, wild peregrines are desired to add vigour into the British falconry ‘stock’.
    The stud book is for the benefit of falconry.
    Please could you enlighten me how this will help peregrine conservation here.
    In the UK peregrines are on the green list, of least concern, and thrive in cities and many wild areas, though they risk persecution associated with game and pigeon ‘sport’ in some regions.
    I fail to see how British peregrines would qualify for a captive breeding programme for conservation purposes, especially when zoos follow many strict guidelines about wild-caught animals. Species generally have to be on the brink before being wild caught from their natural habitat.

    This taking of peregrines is not for their future conservation. It is for falconry.

    Conservation has moved on and recognition of conservation of wild habitats is paramount for the future survival of species.

    Maybe this comes more to question falconry itself; a sport and once survival skill that has been adopted across the world.
    Falconry does have a rich cultural history world-wide. But how relevant is it today? How many people truly need it as a survival skill? Not many.
    Does that mean it should continue? Maybe that at the heart of this.
    There are many reasons why people like falconry…I can understand the fascination with a bird of prey, being privileged to be close to one, developing an understanding of one, be it under human constraints. I do know falconers for whom this is the driving reason, and even though I personally don’t agree with wild birds in captivity (and don’t like the cross breeding of essentially wild species for sport) I can see that some falconers have a deep knowledge of their birds, and ensure their welfare, both the physical, mental and longterm health.
    However, for too many it is a passing phase, a whim, a Harry Potter Owl.
    For far too many it’s status, an ego trip akin to Exotic Joe (Tiger King)…instead of men posing with big cats we see them with their big birds!
    Birds of prey for falconry are remarkably cheap, remarkably easy to buy…leading to overbreeding of birds, many ads stating no time, etc etc. Too many people cannot give the daily time or the years to look after a bird. Welfare is a huge issue.

    So I don’t think your proposed taking of peregrines from the wild in the UK can be portrayed as conservation. That, I believe, is total greenwash.

    This is about the debate of falconry, ‘reconnecting people with their cultural heritage’…which is the main thread of your piece…so let’s keep this debate clear and away from conservation. This is about the ethics of falconry.

    1. Also, if a genetic database is deemed essential, why captive breed. Why not collect sample under license at ringing.

      1. I’ve just read the Natural England post about this and they admit it is purely for falconry.
        Which shows Gary to be a complete fraud using greenwash to pretend there is a conservation value, and Natural England as totally incompetent and as far from natural as possible.

        1. The license was granted under Section 16.1(e), for falconry and aviculture. Its to create a stud book population of captive bred native peregrines for use in falconry which has conservation benefits, its as simple as that !

          1. What conservation benefits?
            A stud book registered with which conservation body?
            Has this been approved via BIAZA?
            What is the British Peregrine Conservancy…is it registered?…I can’t find any details about it….surely it should exist before any conservation work is implemented.
            This is solely for falconry. And you are trying to pedal it as conservation.
            Falconry needs an overhaul.

    2. Hi Gill, I try to keep it simple because I’m struggling to keep up with questions I’ve already addressed many times over. The captive population as it is isn’t the same as our native population so my aim is to get a higher percentage of captive native bred birds flown by falconers so if they are lost and they breed with our wild population it reduced the threat of genetic pollution.
      Secondly, there is degradation of natural instinct in captive population so the further you get away from wild populations the less influence natural selection has making it important that keep that connection close.
      Whether you accept it or not falconry, for many of us, is an important part of our cultural heritage and taking birds from the wild has been an important part of that for over 1000 years. This cultural right is provided for within the Wildlife and Countryside Act and backed up by several international convention that see it as an important part of our modern society. You are entitled to disagree but as I’m having to say more and more, I cant address emotions, only facts.

      1. You are a falconer.
        Not a conservationist.
        Here lies the difference.
        You want wild birds to enhance your sport.
        The world has changed. There are not abundant birds for the taking for your own personal desire to replicate a ‘sport’.
        We need to preserve wild habitats.
        Wild birds belong in the wild.
        There are too many welfare issues associated with falconry.
        It needs an overhaul.
        Just because something once had cultural significance, does not mean it is right or merited now.

      2. You are a falconer.
        Not a conservationist.
        Here lies the difference.
        These are the facts.
        You want wild birds to enhance your sport.
        The world has changed. There are not abundant birds for the taking for your own personal desire to replicate a ‘sport’.
        We need to preserve wild habitats.
        Wild birds belong in the wild.
        There are too many welfare issues associated with falconry.
        It needs an overhaul.
        Just because something once had cultural significance, does not mean it is right or merited now.

      3. Gary, there’s a much simpler way to avoid “captive native bred birds flown by falconers [getting] lost and [breeding] with our wild population [to reduce] the threat of genetic pollution.” Change the law to ban the outmoded practice of falconry. A mark of the progress of civilisation is our ability to recognise when something is no longer acceptable. See fox hunting, hare coursing, badger baiting, cock fighting, etc. as I said before. Whic ever way you look at it, falconry should no longer be a part of our world – especailly based on the argument of it’s “cultural heritage”.

        1. My family have fought and died in two world wars to give me the freedom to enjoy my cultural heritage, that’s supported by the law and a string of international conventions. If you disagree then stop moaning and do something about it. All I can do is research the law, take that on board and then apply for a license. If you dont like it then any amount of bullying on here wont stop me from doing what I’m legally allowed to do.
          The negativity in this country is destroying it, people on here think everyone is corrupt selfish liars and its sucking the heart and soul out of what was once seen as a world leader. The energy wasted on trying to do anything positive here these days is unbelievable and mostly from very ill informed people who have never ventured off this island and achieved little in their lives but attack people who want to achieve something, the same type of people feeding grey squirrels in their gardens and posting them on Facebook to say what a lovely furry little animal they are with no appreciation of what they’ve done to our NATIVE red squirrel population. This is where we’re at and in the next few weeks this country is going to wake up to the deepest depression for 300 years and if some of you people keep up with this negative attitude there will be nothing left ! If you dont like something, get off your backside and do something about it, like I’ve had to, and even Mark has !
          Mark was quite reasoned when I spoke to him this morning, feel sorry for him now having to deal with some of you on a regular basis !

          1. As soon as you bring up the war as justification for anything, you automatically lose.

          2. Gary,

            Thanks for an informative and well written blog. I fear that whatever facts you provide and however reasoned you are, those who do not understand or are ill informed about the reality of the relationship between humans and the natural world and react emotionally will never be able to comprehend what it is your are attempting to do.

            What I find astonishing in some of the rude and ill informed responses to you, is that if these people were expected to live a “natural” life with minimal impact on nature and without exploiting the natural world in some way, they would find it unbearable!

            The hypocrisy and ignorance displayed in some of these replies, coupled with a child like view of the world is depressing.

            Of course there is a place for all views, but please lets deal with the reality so that progress can be made and not retreat into meaningless sentimentality based on a world which never has and never will exist.

          3. Matthew – ‘What I find astonishing in some of the rude and ill informed responses’ and ‘The hypocrisy and ignorance’ and ‘meaningless sentimentality’.

    3. Gill you have touched upon some very important and valid points about raptor ownership in the UK. It may reassure you, or not, that those very points you raise about supply, whims, welfare etc are the very topics that falconers have been debating and arguing about for decades, ever since licensing to take wild raptors for falconry ended. When licences were the only access into falconry there were strict conditions that had to be met, endorsements required from experienced falconers and then approval from senior falconers and that was just to be allowed to apply to the government. Whilst that system was not the model of perfection it did however limit the types and numbers of birds available, it eliminated the whimsicals and the culture within the sport was one of pride and privilege. The cessation if licensing forced the advancement of captive breeding and once mastered Pandora’s box was truly opened. The current situation is one that has evolved from necessity and has been imposed upon falconers. A return to wild harvesting in a moderated, impactless way would resolve all the issues you rightly raise. And it must be remembered that falconry is primarily about the welfare of the hawk. There is no cruelty in the management and training and all birds harvested would have a far lower mortality rate than in the wild. That is irrefutable fact and I see no reason how anyone can contradict this.

      1. Thank you for your thoughts, Darren.
        I do know falconers who put the welfare of their birds foremost, and are frustrated at the issues of ignorance and welfare associated with the breeding and keeping of birds.
        But falconry isn’t primarily about the welfare of the hawk, I think it’s primarily about the relationship between human and animal. There are deep seated reasons…whether of not we are talking about people and their domesticated animals or with wild/semi-wild animals, why people want to keep animals.
        I believe to allow access to wild caught (I hate the term harvested) crosses the line of exploitation of the wild, in a world where the wild world is at risk more than ever before. It opens a pandoras box of exploitation.
        I believe to try to justify a person’s want or desire (because that’s ultimately what it is) to possess and keep a wild bird and try to use the excuse of some deep cultural significance is just an excuse. It puts a person’s want above the need for that bird to be a part of the wild. To allow a wild bird to fly free is surely primarily about the welfare of the bird and not the wants of the human.
        I believe there is cruelty in taking a bird from its natural habitat. You are denying it one of the five freedoms.
        I think there needs to be an overhaul and licensing within falconry, inspections etc for kept birds of prey.
        This is a very interesting debate and your thoughts have made me think and address my own ideas on this.

  12. Thanks for your reply, Gary. You identify the ‘main’ quarry species, but not the subsidiaries.

    I fear it could include the likes of golden plover, fieldfares, woodpeckers, puffins and a whole load more.

    What is more, your use of the term, ‘duck’, covers a wide spectrum.

    I spoke to one falconer (admittedly it was a Harris hawk, not a peregrine) who told me his bird would take “anything from a wren upwards”.

    Is it possible to train a peregrine in such a way that it gives a wide berth to less common species?

    1. I think 99.9% of falconers will hunt within the law and do what they can to avoid their birds killing any protected species, probably more than most people driving down the road in their car or from protected species flying into the windows at home.
      Falcons in particular become wedded to a particular quarry so once that’s established there’s less danger of it killing something else.

  13. Conservation, really? More like another money making scheme to me. This whole thing stinks!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I find your comment quite offensive, you dont know anything about me or how hard I’ve worked on this and yet you quite happily challenge my integrity ! I’m old school, my Mother went to church twice a day and I was brought up with that morality so please stick to the facts !

  14. Sorry Gary but I just don’t see a conservation argument there. Peregrine is doing well away from areas where persecution still occurs, having adapted to our pigeon filled urban sprawl so I can’t see an argument a for a fall-back captive stock. I have no doubt falconers would love to fly wild birds but I just can’t see that supplying a hobby/sport justifies taking protected birds from the wild. What is not clear is how many birds would need to be taken over the years to prevent an inbred population?

  15. I am not anti-falconary by any means, but not a supporter of taking wild birds to improve the stock quality, as that should have been maintained by controlled and proper breeding within the field, and on the points raised by Gary, I am slightly at a loss with:

    1. Conservation – cannot see where this fits in – conservation is best servived by viable self-sustain wild populations. And thankfully with peregrines we have this at present. So taking wild Peregrines into capativity for falconary breeding stock will serve no purpose on a ‘conseravation’ basis.

    If a population was on the brink, then a captive breeding regime might be the only conservation avenue, and I think any argument you put forward on the conservation point many are going to find it hard where to see this comes into your argument for the wild population at least.

    2. You might have some point to make (even a conservation one) – if you are saying the profit now to be had selling to the Arab falconery market, who are putting some species at risk of extinction for sport i.e. Bustard species, is at a very high level as the money to be made selling to them is higher enough now that it is an inticement for some to start taking the wild population illegally. That the agencies should legally allow some to be taken to allow a better captive breeding stock to fulfil the Arab falconers demand for pure birds.

    3. If the ‘captive’ population is tainted, then falconary has shoot its self in the foot – there is a tendancy to crossbreed maybe too much in the past?

    4. With all the goodwill, this only comes across as a desire to create a good stock of captive breeding pure Peregrines from the UK population to feed the sales to the Middle East. Someone will be making money from this.

    5. If birds are selling at c £5000 a time, why should birds be taken from the wild free? Maybe if NE are daft enough to issue licences then they should charge a high fee for them and the money goes into a fund akin to the Landfill tax and conservation agencies can bid for it to at least something is given back, because at present I can see no gain at all to the ‘natural’ species under this proposal.

    1. so you’re perfectly happy with our native population being replaced with Spanish peregrines are you or the birds falconers fly suffering with genetic related health issues then ?

      1. why would they be replaced by ‘Spanish’ Peregrines? – what a load of tosh. If the Falocners birds have genetic related issyes, then it is down to bad breeding and I suggest you present a strong argument for banning it. If there are few pure Peregrines left then it is because faloncers prefer hybrids. Thankfully there are a lot of good breeders out there, and some pretty shit ones to. Exactly the same when it comes down to all things really

  16. Regarding the conservation angle, I think that the plan would support re-introduction of a guaranteed pure population should there be a large wild population crash. The alternative would be to source potential non-native hybridized peregrines from captive aviculturists to release into the wild, which I doubt anyone would want to see.

    1. Which is what happened when the American anatum peregrine became extinct east of the Rockies in the 70’s. Some people refer to the peregrine that was re-introduced as Falco peregrinus bastardi given it was created from various sub-species from around the world.
      Once is a mistake, if it happens again its stupidity !

  17. I as I explained in Marks blog about this issue do not have a problem with falconry and never have had except for the laundering in the past of birds illegally taken from the wild. The attitude to falconry here amongst conservationists is by and large a negative view. This is very different to the view in North America, where of course The Peregrine Fund, that essentially saved the Peregrine in North America was founded by conservationist falconers such as the late Tom Cade, Bill Burnham amongst others all of whom flew falcons and those alive still do. Those interested should read “A Fascination with Falcons” by Bill Burnham, or “The Rites of Autumn” by Dan O’Brien or perhaps Tim Gallagher’s “Falcon Fever” to understand the strong link between falconers and conservation in the US.
    That is not to say we should accept all that Gary says or wishes to do, I know there are lots of my fellow raptor enthusiasts who will never agree and I respect that. Lets be honest here the number of birds proposed to be taken is tiny compared to the population and will make NO DIFFERENCE to the wild population. The idea of a UK stud book of genetically UK Peregrines with full DNA profiles, so nothing from the wild can be laundered is to me not a bad idea. Give Gary the benefit of the doubt and if this idea of his works not only will his ideas about UK falconry with UK birds become true but with his and his colleagues co-operation it will be even harder to launder illegally wild taken birds. Its time for raptor enthusiasts to try to work together whether their primary interest is falconry or conservation we all love Peregrines after all.

    1. I love wolves. I wouldn’t take one from the wild and keep one.
      I love tigers. I wouldn’t keep one of those either.
      Similarly I wouldn’t take a peregrine from the wild cos I wanted to fly it.

      1. Fine Gill there is a fundamental difference between you, Gary and me. I’ve been a raptor nut since I was a child and been both a professional and amateur raptor worker for over 30 years. I’ve never owned a bird of prey either but I understand the wish to and see no reason why we should not accommodate falconry and falconers in our world. I don’t actually care that this can be argued easily as not a primary conservation idea, it will make no difference to wild Peregrines. Falconry birds are well cared for, they have to be to work well in the field there is a trust between bird , dog and man. Taking these birds will make no difference to wild populations and the stud book may help to catch the bad guys within falconry. We may have to differ on this one or discuss further at a Hen Harrier day.

        1. I am with Gill 100%. First time that I would challenge your undoubted and valued knowledge and experience.

          Peregrines are protected by law, they belong to us not a vested interest group..

        2. Hi Paul
          I agree with you on many things but not this.
          I too have loved raptors since I was young. And admittedly would have loved the chance to have owned one once.
          But not now.
          But there are too many birds available for the wrong people.
          From this discourse Gary appears to have much knowledge about falconry. I know falconers who treat their birds extremely well. But there are too many birds living in squalid conditions. It’s a sport interest now. Not a cultural necessity.
          Yes…happy to debate with you further at a HH day.

      2. Sorry, but unless people started addressing real concerns I’m not replying to people who live in Disney land !

    2. Hi Paul, I spent time on South Padre Island in 2018 trapping Tundra falcons with American falconers who had licenses. The banders were also on the beach and we occasionally stopped to share notes. The last evening we all went out to dinner together and I enjoyed talking to the banders and spending time with American falconers who had that connection with the wild population, one of the best experiences of my life and in the spring of 2019 the falconer I was with sent me photo’s of the female Tundra being release at a time when the falcon migration was returning north. She had two broken primary feathers when trapped which usually results in further damage once feathers lose the support of adjoining ones, these had been replaced by new feathers imped in by the falconer and she was sent on her way north having lived out the winter hunting with my friend in Texas, unlikely to have survived otherwise.
      One other book worth reading is the Pilgrim and the Cowboy where USFWS tried to set up falconers in a sting operation but by the end it was discovered that fish and wildlife were the only ones who broke the law. All because of a bigoted view of falconry.
      I think falconry here has come a long way over the last 40 years and not seen as negative as you suggest. Some people have such a tunnel vision of the world though they’ll never understand the real issues !

    3. Well said, Paul. Great to read some common sense – which has been in short supply on here today.

  18. Gary

    I think you’ve been brave to step forward and convey your experience here.

    Am not a falconer, and have no particular interest, but it is undoubtedly an activity and there is clearly economic demand.

    To those that are denouncing Gary and Natural England’s approach, just stop and think. If there is a demand, then there will always be someone, or a group, willing to undertake underhand methods. From what I understand, Gary is perhaps devaluing the underhand means by providing verifiable British falcons. These can presumably supply the demand. And most (virtually all?) customers will take the legal route with no risk, than pursue an illegal route. On this basis, I think this should be a cautiously allowed, thoroughly policed and if it works, then is there a major issue? In the context of the demand.

    Gary: I assume most aggrieved commentators here are, and rightly so, understandably so, angry about the rampant, ongoing raptor crime that persists in our uplands. And lowlands. And on the edge of our cities as the latest red kite casualty in Leeds has demonstrated. But this is a separate issue. A very important issue. But not one that should tar Gary’s proverbial brush.

    All: In some ways, what Gary is doing is what and where we want grouse moors to be. Undertaking an activity that is licenced. An alternative approach could have been a surreptitious approach to grouse moors to solve ‘their problem’. Am sure a disreputable individual with negligible moral scruples could have obtained many more falcon chicks via this method, under the radar, and achieved financially far earlier any fiscal reward that Gary will accumulate, if at all. So let’s not attack Gary. Let’s say, OK, we understand your motives, we understand what you say you want to achieve. Please do. But do so responsibly. Am sure he will. We don’t have to agree. It may not be to our taste. But it is legitimate and from what I’ve read and taken from Gary’s blog is that this was done with genuine intentions.

    Gary, thanks for taking the time to write.

    1. This isn’t about conservation. Natural England admit that even if Gary can’t.

      1. The aim is create a captive bred source of native peregrine for use in falconry, that has conservation benefits. Captive breeding alone, of any raptors species is recognised as beneficial to conservation as it reduces pressure on wild population.

    2. Thanks Richard !
      There are no commercial benefits to this project, far from it, it will take personal investment to undertake. The falconry community is clear, and has been for many years now that illegally taking of birds from the wild and selling them WILL land you in jail.
      I dont have to come on here to explain, I’ve spent 11 researching every fine detail on this including relevant case law, plus Natural England have spent months going through all the details with their lawyers, including on what was looked at in 2015 with the buzzard judicial review. I’ve accepted Mark’s invite to try to explain and address people’s concerns but if people aren’t interested what I have to say then there’s nothing else I can do other than, I could have applied for a purely falconry based license, no captive breeding project, just take a bird and fly it for falconry, and that also complies with the law, but I wanted there to be a benefit to the species so included a breeding project that adds further conservation benefits. If some of you guys had seen what I’ve seen and understood the problems raptors species face around the world you’d think twice before passing ill informed comments on what I’m trying to do !

  19. Gary, I have a better solution. We outlaw falconry and throw the ass in jail of anyone caught with a bird who isn’t either an official rescue agency or official zoo. And ideally, major zoos will be literally the only recognised rescue centres. There, problem solved. Now go be an out right villain somewhere else. Or try not to be one in the first place.

    1. Hey, maybe you can take those virtual reality glasses off and rejoin the REAL world eh ! lol

    2. Ban falconry and you ban the very experts who know how to do the correct rehabilitation and with the greatest successes.

  20. By Dave Slater, Natural England’s Director for wildlife licensing.

    Yesterday (15 April) we granted licences for three falconers to permit the taking of a small number (six in total) of peregrine falcon chicks from the wild for use in falconry. Each falconer intends to take one male and one female chick to form a breeding programme with the other licensees.
    So its not just Gary Wall. Three falconers!

  21. wouldn’t the Merlin be a better choice for conservation measures and saving cultural heritage, “the ladies hawk” these little falcons still get battered on the moorlands and our British race haven’t evolved to move into towns and cities as have the Canadian race or their larger cousins the Peregrine.
    the 75% mortality of first year birds doesn’t cut as an excuse to take one, you could have taken one of the 25% that would have survived anyway therefor depriving the wild population of important genes

    1. “the 75% mortality of first year birds doesn’t cut as an excuse to take one, you could have taken one of the 25% that would have survived anyway therefor depriving the wild population of important genes”

      See the link supplied by ‘A Conehead’ below. The licence stipulates that the chick taken must be the smallest member of the brood from which it is taken. As I am sure you are aware, raptors practice asynchronous hatching and the last hatched (and hence smallest) chick generally does not survive other than in exceptional years. The reason these chicks usually die is nothing to do with genetics but simply the bad luck of having been produced from the last laid egg. It is therefore surely fair enough to argue that taking this chick will not have a significant impact on the number of wild birds fledged into the population?

  22. How dare you use the name of falconry and bring it into disrepute like you have Gary Wall. You claim your doing it for conservation purposes ,this has nothing whatsoever to do with falconry nor conservation ,your not a falconer Nor ever have been ,you’re a breeder and a complete fraud At that .Falconry is a small world you’ve never flown a bird in your life.

    1. I totally agree Terry, Gary is not a falconer or ever has been! Nor ever will be! He’s a breeder that only concerns himself with the Arab market, the Arab market wants Gyr x Peregrine hybrids made from wild peregrines which commands extremely high prices, he should grow a set and tell the truth, its got nothing to do with conservation!! He’s not interested in conserving peregrines, all he’s interested in is the gene pool, getting undiluted bloodlines to make money!!

  23. Ten years ago I had a bit of contact with a large-scale falcon captive breeding operation. Through my then-27 years’ experience of studying wild Peregrines through nest-recording and ringing, I was advising a local company whose maintenance work on a bridge was conflicting with nesting Peregrines. They rearranged their schedule not to disturb the birds until the chicks had flown but unfortunately on his first flight the male, first to fledge as usual, landed on the ground in a nearby street and, through a chain involving members of the public, a local vets, police and a keeper of eagle owls (for displays), ended with my talking to the owl-keeper. The key stage in the life of young Peregrines is learning how to catch prey, normally taught by its parents but they were not interested in resuming their parental duties and the young male could not fly more than about 20 metres. Long introduction, sorry, but the only hope for his future was to be looked after, and introduced to flight and catching prey, by someone who knew how to deal with falcons. So, I took the bird on a 200-mile round trip to a breeder of falcons recommended by the RSPB who had experience of dealing with orphaned chicks and eventually returning them to the wild.

    This was an eye-opening experience with my guided tour of his 50 aviaries showing me lots that I didn’t know, and the breeder made clear that his mostly-Arab customers wanted birds with a 3-generation pedigree, preferably being able to see at least one parent and grandparent flying, and they only wanted big birds. For Peregrines this meant the Alaskan (Peale’s) race (occasionally crossed with Gyr falcons) and he was not interested in keeping or breeding from the comparatively weedy British birds.

    So, if my brief experience is typical, my question to Gary Wall: why are falconers asking Natural England for licences to take wild English Peregrines, of unknown heritage and relatively small size?

    1. This project has nothing to do with Middle East falcon breeding projects so your comments are irrelevant. Try reading mot replies to other posts, if people cant be bothered I wont reply.

  24. Why do you have to have peregrines specifically ? Why not stick with Harris hawks etc . Big money to be made with Peregrines . I am not convinces of your motives .

    1. Either people just dont read my comments or they just have no idea of what I’m talking about. Say we were talking about squirrels and people where keeping grey squirrels as pets but obviously the native wild populations are red squirrels so what I’m trying to do is breed the equivalent of red squirrels so in future people can keep them instead of greys, and if any escape they wont threaten our native population !
      Same has happened with domestic cats breeding with our native wild cat, pushing it to the brink of extinction with nearly 5 million pounds on a captive breeding project to try to address the problem.
      If people want to have a go then do something about all the Harris Hawks being lost in England, so cheap they’re now kept as pets by people how dont even know what falconry is as cant be bothered to get them back when they escape !

      1. Gary your a complete and utter hypocrite ,you admit to making a living selling hybrid falcons to Arabs then have the nerve to come on here making out your doing peregrines a massive favour in the name of conservation by creating a stud book. Were you not concerned what your actions were having when you were churning out hybrids to the Arabs ,obviously not !! Money get in the way of integrity ??

  25. There is no difference between falconers using raptors for display / entertainment and circuses using tiger or elephants for entertainment – circus proprietors also had a ‘cultural’ link to the past. Fortunately though the use of wild animals has been banned in many countries and falconry should also be consigned to the history books. Natural England should not pander to minority interests. Most people can enjoy raptors without feeling the need to take them from the wild and control them. It’s ludicrous to suggest you have become the ‘hunting partner’ of a bird which had no choice in the matter.

    1. They’ll be handled using falconry methods of manning, possibly flying for a period which increases their breeding success and then managed in a breeding set up. Average first year breeding age is 3 years.

  26. To people implying this is a commercial enterprise and the birds will be sold abroad you need to read up on the CITES regulations.
    There are some extreme views expressed in this discussion. It would be better if people could accept that there is space in this world for opposing viewpoints. This project will have no negative impacts on the wild peregrine population.
    I also suspect lots of people first develop a love of raptors from seeing them up close at falconry displays. You could view falconry birds as ambassadors for the wild birds.

  27. This is interesting and I came into this thinking oh here we go. But I don’t really have a problem with this. You are not killing raptors. You are not setting snares or illegal traps on grouse moors. That is a good start.
    I understand responsible falconry and I know that there are issues in some places (Houbara Bustard populations, spring to mind) but for the most part Falconry isn’t a huge sport in the UK and isn’t a blight on prey species (waterfowl etc).
    What I would hope people ask here is “What can you do for us?”. Are you against Raptor Persecution? Are you on our side? Can your breeding stock be used to reintroduce Peregrines where they have disappeared from (assuming those isn’t sending them to a certain death at the hands of pigeon fanciers and ‘keepers)? We can’t keep hating everyone and without the backing of the RSPB membership we aren’t making enough headway against DGS and persecution. Lenient sentences and cases dismissed always outweigh the good that could be done. We need more allies. Simple. Therefore I’m far more open to this than others here.

      1. Thank you Mark. I thought I had commented on your blog in the past. I feel there is a need to discuss this openly and I do hope we can see what is truly going to happen here. Comments vary but I see others here have a similar opinion, but I must say the comment from the young falconer was of great interest. I have a pair of peregrines close to me (6 min walk) and others short bus rides in different directions so I know this scheme will have no impact on the wild population but I want to know a lot more as you can see.

  28. I think a few points are being missed here.

    Wildtake licenses are given out in Eire with no impact on wild populations at all. Raptor mortality is pretty high in their first year so these falcons taken would potentially not make their second spring anyway.

    Captive breeding of raptors whether you like it or not has completely diminished the need for wild caught/ trafficked raptors such as Sakers in the Middle East and replaced them with hybrid falcons which can only be man made and cannot be stolen from a eyrie which has conservational benefits for the uk, Europe and Asia.

    Falconers have done more for raptor conservation in the past fifty years than any other party. The goshawk population in the uk is directly attributed to falconers, The peregrine funds pioneering work with captive breeding and releasing of peregrines was the brainchild of falconers and the work currently being carried out in Asia to create captive breeding populations of vultures and managing them using techniques learned through raptor propagation to rebuild against the devastating effect of the Asian vulture crisis is also guided by falconers.

    Some might say Gary is profiteering, I would say at the time he got out of the falcon breeding game he actually just missed the ‘boom’ and crazy money that arabs have paid for these farms. He could have got back into it, he had the name and the skill but chose against it.

    I think instead of everyone building walls and taking stances why not be interested. Why not keep the dialogue open in a conversational way?

    I’m sure NE being the somewhat blunt instrument it is would only allow these to be under the falconry/ avicultural box to make sure it is in black and white with no leeway or misinterpretation possible.
    What I feel would be more beneficial for falconry and the falcon is to have a more American approach where these birds can be taken in their first year and used for falconry and then released rather then being put into aviaries for breeding, this way falconers get to fly these birds and bring them through that initial period where death is most likely to occur and then release a falcon that can go on with its life and contribute to the wild population.

    best of luck to all concerned

    1. J Tennant – thank you for your first comment here. What exactly backs up your statement that ‘Falconers have done more for raptor conservation in the past fifty years than any other party’ please.

  29. Hi Gary,

    Thank you for writing this blog post, it has been very informative however it leaves many questions unanswered. Some of my concerns are below and I would appreciate it if you would take the time to answer them.

    Firstly, as you are no doubt aware, peregrines are still persecuted in the UK, this affects urban populations as well as those on uplands. As I understand it, the idea behind this initiative is for some of the take to be from urban nests. In this case surely then there should be some effort on the part of Natural England and the falconer community to ensure that the nests they have taken from do not suffer from further degradation at the hands of humans?

    Secondly, what guarantee is there that the licensed individual will take the weakest chick if they are not being observed? If the ‘take’ is being made to develop a breeding population how can we guarantee that they won’t take the strongest chick in order to build
    a stronger breeding population? How will this ‘take’ be monitored?

    Thirdly, the licensed individuals will, I have no doubt, profit from having these birds to breed from, with that in mind shouldn’t those individuals pay for greater protections for peregrine nests in general to help ensure that these raptors remain a (relatively) common sight for the average person to enjoy in the UK?

    Prosecutions for raptor persecution are very rare and the penalties very small if a prosecution is made. If the license scheme is abused, what are the penalties? Is it just a fine and a slap on the wrist or are there hefty penalties? Will a falconer have their license taken away and their animals removed? I ask this as surely the penalty for not adhering to the license regulations should be severe.

    You’re right, this community is very passionate about protecting birds of prey, and, given Natural England’s less than illustrious record on protecting raptors, there are a great many of us who are extremely concerned.

  30. Gary Wall. I did ask you where these Peregrines will be going, you didn’t tell me. I don’t expect an exact location but are they going to Scotland? I assume you live in Scotland. SNH didn’t give you a licence but you obviously went away and did your homework and you”now know exactly what you are talking about”, why not go back to SNH with your new knowledge? You chose to go to NE who have now granted you a licence. If you live in Scotland who will be overseeing your project? I am always concerned these organisations give out licences or approval but never follow anything up. It’s not surprising people are sceptical.

  31. Why Mark do you give space here for this disgusting man, and from time to time on this blog to others who delight in capturing, or trapping or shooting our native wildlife solely for their own pleasure`?
    The supposed defence of ‘our cultural tradition’ is regularly trotted out as an excuse and smokescreen for this and other crimes ; why not bring back bearbaiting and legalise dog fighting and badger digging?
    ‘There is always two sides to every arguement’ does not mean you have to air these views here, when the moral arguements, and the beliefs of most of your readers are firmly against the exploitation of our wildlife for profit and for fun.

    1. Paul Allam – can’t imagine why really, except that I belie e in letting people air their views and others to challenge them. If I only posted views on here with which I 100% agreed then your comment wouldn’t have got through…

  32. For the last 8 years, I’ve been a falconer, it was the natural progression for me as someone who dearly wished to get involved in thier conservation, and teaching people about them. I believe the training and keeping of birds of prey, done properly and without stress to the bird, can and still be used for the conservation of species and education about them. However, this has shown to me that conservation and the falconry community are not the same thing. For me, this decision, which is completely unnecessary, is making me pick a side- Conservationist or Falconer, which I believe should be the same thing as it is in many countries. But in the UK, the falconry community is hellbent on preserving this traditional falconry rather than trying to adapt it to the modern world. As a young falconer myself, only in my early 20s, and at university with other normal young people, I know that this form of falconry is no longer acceptable, nor should it be. I know plenty of falconers and breeders, who will tell you that this “British studbook” is a total myth, it’s infact abit of a running joke. British Peregrines are Northern Peregrines, which travel all around the western paleaarctic. But it seems sense and knowledge has given in to greed.
    There is nothing “traditional” about falconry anymore. Hybrid and tri brid falcons, although occasionally appearing in nature as a one off (there’s a few papers which shows that there has been exchanging of genetics, but over thousands of years not yearly as occurs now in british falconry) are bred by artificial insemination, and i know of many horror stories of when this Frankenstein approach has resulted in some severly disfigured birds which suffer greatly, to show off as a novelty. It makes Joe Exotic look like Mother Theresa some of the stuff ive heard.

    I really do fear, as a young person who keeps birds of prey, that if the traditionalist falconry community is more focused in on itself and it’s own opinions, rather than listening to what the 99.99999% of people think, just shrugging them off as ignorant “softies” as many of them as slandered as, then falconry will surely become a thing of the past. This great, historical and practical practice of training birds of prey in a healthy way, which has been used in the conservation efforts of the Goshawk and, indeed, the peregrine here in the UK, as well as many other species abroad, which also has growing potential for use in environmentally friendly bird abatement, will lose out because of the few stubborn traditonalists who insist it’s thier right to maximise profits against what they know in the better judgement, what is best for the conservation of the species we all, as falconers, should be protecting. We should know better.

    1. This is one of the best comments on here. My concern over this is who’s side Gary is on and how can he convince us that his motives will be for the benefit of the Peregrine’s future.

  33. Hi Gary,
    Emotions parked. Can you explain to readers your connection you have in the link below & the financial gains linking to the trade & supply chain of quality Falcons with a valued blood line. I note that there is also a sale on in the online shop for captive bred Falcons such as Peregrines.

    1. Indeed, and if interested in further background try ‘Googling’ Gary Wall Falcons.
      Also, while I’m here, an excellent comment below from David and one from Dave Dick on the related post.

  34. Wildlife in this country belongs to us all. This is the ethos of conservation. We are protecting a shared resource so that we can continue to enjoy it into the future. This scheme does the opposite. This scheme involves taking a rare animal from the wild and giving it to one particular person. The bird will live out its days in their aviary with no chance whatsoever of living a natural life. What right do they have to do this? Why is their right to keep a wild animal in a cage more important than our right to enjoy that wild animal in the natural environment in which it belongs? There is no wider justification for taking peregrines from the wild. Given that those receiving the birds will be obtaining a valuable commodity seemingly for free I find it difficult to believe that there is no financial incentive.

    We also have to think about what will happen in the future once these licences start to be granted. There will be six peregrines taken this year. These peregrines will be put to use. There will be falconers (including the author) who obtain a valuable commodity essentially for free. Others will wish to do so. Perhaps some of the peregrines will sicken. More will be taken to replace them. There will be groups who have an interest in reducing the peregrine population who will realise that this is a perfectly legal way of doing it. There will be others who will discover that there is a ready market for peregrine chicks and who will be more than happy to meet the demand. The idea that this will stop at six chicks is naive.

    On another note – I don’t know why we have to be polite and good-humoured when someone comes along with an idea which is completely antithetical to conservation as we understand it. There are plenty of people who visit this website who love wildlife and care deeply for it. It is completely unsurprising that people have strong feelings about taking peregrines from their nests. I certainly do.

    I would hope there will be a judicial review. Perhaps you might find some learned friends who would act pro bono peregrino.

  35. I suspect that the RSPB know a bit more about the conservation of birds than the vested interests of the falconry industry – and they are implacably opposed to this licence: pointing out that it is not taking 6 chicks out of the environment but 6 this year and then 8 for 10 years thereafter. Is that 86 chicks in total or 86 per each of the 3 falconers?

      1. Come on Mark: what sort of stud book are you going to get with that number of birds? It would be a genetic disaster waiting to happen.

        Of course they are going to take far more than that: and Natural England, whilst being pretty stupid over the initial granting of the licence, are not so stupid that they don’t already know this and must be aware that it would need to be renewed for the foreseeable future. A cynic might say that the initial licence is for 2 years precisely because they can say “it’s only for 2 years” knowing full well that it is going to have to continue for many more years than that to be viable.

  36. When will these birds be taken? Surely with lock-down in progress this spring, 2020 will be a non-starter for you Gary?

  37. Thanks Gary for your effort and courage in trying to explain your project. I’m not going to attempt to discuss any detail; I’m assuming that’s already been covered. The problem I have is your use of the word ‘emotion’. It’s the barrier you can’t or won’t attempt to cross and to me it comes over as derision. From what I’ve read it’s nothing to do with emotion, but morals. Yourself and most of the commentators are stood on the edge of a moral divide. Like yourself and myself, most have decided long ago which side they are standing. As others have said, many practices, once considered acceptable and part of our ‘cultural heritage’ are no longer so. I’m sure similar well-informed, closely argued and sometimes rude and heated debates occurred before slavery was abolished or, in the field of science when a long held theory was overturned by a new paradigm.
    You’ve clearly been immersed in the detail for so long perhaps you’ve lost sight of your surroundings. I imagine you live in or close to Scotland. I regularly climb one or more of Scotland’s fine mountains for the view. It always puts my life into perspective.

  38. Dear all, let me first start by saying I am a practising falconer of some 44 years,I have flown a large variety of falcons, hawks and eagles, I am a member of international clubs worldwide and see and read about conservation issues across the planet regarding not just raptors but many species. The greatest threat to all our wildlife is first habitat loss, followed by direct persecution and possibly even more so by indirect persecution, for instance the food you all eat , has to be grown that leads to pesticides , because you want cheep food , and in return poisons the whole echo system.Most of you suffer from a cognitive dissonance when it comes to the real problems and issues regarding both preservation and conservation.So the whole issue of conservation is wide and diverse , not just as you wrongly are about a few peregrines harvested for falconry and captive breeding.If this project is totally open and transparent then it will have great gains for preserving native peregrine populations which are still not 100% safe , even more so regarding shooting and poisoning by so called sportsmen or be it pigeon fanciers.Falconers across the world take great pride in helping threatened raptor species and the results prove themselves beyond doubt, they were the first to see first hand the pesticide effects of DDTs , when local eyries which had been used for hundreds of years suddenly started to fail.We have been here for rehabilitating injured raptors and captive breeding for endanger species like the Mauritius kestrel, peregrine, red kite, seas eagle ,California condor the list is endless.In the past falconers took peregrine chicks every year , but these guys and locals used to protect them in these days gone by , also merlin chicks to and releasing after the season meant normally 4 or 5 of these young would enter the wild , were as had they been left most would have died.
    Now I would like to ask Gary to clear a few points.
    How and who will monitor this English nature and will other interested bodies be invited to take part in the monitoring.
    What’s the criteria for distribution of all young actually bred by this project.
    Can you guarantee no financial rewards will ever be asked of these young .
    Will a possible exchange of these taken be available to exchange with wild peregrines so to increase wild genetics as well.
    I myself as a falconer , personally have no interest in acquiring or taking wild stock but this project has merits if monitored correctly.What it now needs is positive support and input.
    Will any progeny be put back into the wild.

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