Natural England issues licences to take Peregrines from the wild

John James Audubon via Wikimedia Commons

I’m interested to see that Natural England has issued licences for falconers to take 2 Peregrine chicks from the wild in order to establish a stud book of British Peregrines.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

I would like to know what are the licence conditions and from where it is envisaged that these Peregrines will be taken. Presumably not from the uplands of England because there Peregrines are not doing too well, as opposed to in lowland and urban areas where they are thriving (on the whole).

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51 Replies to “Natural England issues licences to take Peregrines from the wild”

  1. I know how I feel about it.
    Surely there are enough birds that have to be rehabilitated after injury to satisfy this demand? Or is this just more brood meddling?

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    1. Hi Paul, I have the license. As the Peregrine Fund discovered in the US when they set up their breeding programme to re-introduce the American Anatum Peregrine wild disabled birds dont accept captivity to the degree where they have good breeding potential. The reason I'm doing this is to provide a supply of captive bred native Peregrines for falconry here and also has the potential as a source for re-introduction should that ever be required in future. The present captive population is, as JNCC refer to it, a "mish mash" of various sub-species so hopefully I can make a difference and get British falconers flying native Peregrines again, as has been the case for over a thousand years. Its important to me to address people concerns.

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        1. And you have a mind capable of being open? You clearly do not with that inept comment!

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      1. I notice Gary that one of your many applications to Natural England was with "Sky High Falconry" who advertise on their website that they do weddings and school visits.

        I hope you reconsider catching native wildlife to sell onto travelling zoo's, perhaps take up photography?

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      2. You refer to the fact that this has been done for over a thousand years!! Surely as technology/ industry and general human civilisation has evolved we should learn to respect these beautiful birds and leave them in their natural habitat. This is the greed and arrogance of humans yet again wanting to control beautiful creatures!!!! Another small step towards humans destroying the world!!! Absolutely shocking!!!

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  2. I'm not sure how I feel about it either, although I suspect that many of my fellow raptor workers will be viscerally opposed. For myself I have never objected to falconry as many do and have in the past thought that as long as birds are sustainably managed taking from the wild would not be a problem. It would be necessary to see the licence conditions as you say to decide how one felt about this particular licence. In the old days birds were taken from uplands but then lowland and urban Peregrines hardly existed and the underlying argument was take them from places where the keepers will prevent successful fledging anyway. This is an argument, that in this day and age, we should be vehemently opposed to, birds should only be taken from those parts of the population that are doing well.

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    1. Hi Paul, dont worry, I have just as much concern for our native population as anyone and the main reason why I'm trying to establish this project, there will be no birds taken from area's that have issues with the with population. My hope is that once people understand why I'm trying to do this members of raptor study groups will see the conservation benefits and help me to take birds from locations where birds have a record of poor success rates.

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  3. Well, I know how I feel.

    Its bad enough these birds are persecuted, they don't need cone-heads from the NE cocking things up in their usual style.

    If NE want to do something constructive, prosecute fully those people and institutions who persecute these birds, and bring justice for the peregrine falcon, not some arsed attempt at conservation.

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    1. Hi Thomas, falconers are passionate about raptor conservation and have been involved with most raptor re-introduction projects around the world. I have over 40 years breeding experience, I've visited many countries around the world and understand the problems for wildlife, also here, having an interest in shooting when I was younger. If people really care about conservation they'll give me a chance to try to do something positive, I've spent over ten years researching this and have spent hundreds of hours addressing issues the authorities have highlighted. If you have any specific concerns I'm more than happy to address them.

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    1. Hi Nigel, the captive population is a mixture of various sub-species and not representative of our native wild population, that's why I have to source birds, on a sustainable basis, from the wild. There is also a degree of degradation of natural instinct in captive populations, plus every animal humans have domesticated have ended up with health issues, this is an opportunity to maintain a captive population that's still influenced by natural selection so could be a source of re-introduction should the population ever crash again in future.

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      1. You give 2 good reasons in this reply why Peregrines should not be taken from the wild. 1) the degradation of natural instinct when kept/ bred in captivity( which would apply to any you capture/ breed as well) plus you state” Every animal humans have domesticated ended up with health issues”. Again, this would therefore apply to any you raise/ breed in captivity. You fail to convince me of any benefit to the Peregrines in this project, just the personal glory of owning pure wild caught British rare birds of prey. I suggest you leave them in the wild where they have a natural life of freedom contributing to the wild gene pool and you get your captive caged birds from the large source of already domesticated birds

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  4. So this is essential to the health and welfare of our peregrine population? Peregrines are not stud horses so what is the necessity of this action that may well act as a precedent for further takes from the wild.

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    1. Hi Peter, the necessity is that its beneficial to our native population so where possible British falconers fly native peregrines and the only source at present are birds from the wild. Due to the increase in demand in the Middle East because of falcons racing British falconers are now more and more becoming reliant on smaller sub-species of peregrine when most would prefer to fly native bloodlines, I'm hoping I can address this through taking a small number of birds each year to create a foundation and then keep track of what is bred with what via a stud book. I'm also hoping to use the opportunity to assist research into the genetic make up of our native birds so we have a better understanding of this island race.

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      1. Maybe a simple step to take would be to DISCONTINUE aiding and abetting this so-called 'demand in the Middle East' then!

        But it's been said that blending peregrine with other raptor species enhances the speed and agility of that other species? Or something like that. You'll know, Mr Wall.

        Either way, we know these traits are highly prized by hunting and racing falconers in the Middle East. Again, you will know more about that, I'm sure, Mr Wall.

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    1. Hi James, we have licenses for 3 pairs at present and taking into consideration the "small numbers" criteria on derogation we hope to take 4 pairs a year for the first ten years and then whenever required after that to keep the core of the project F2 or below.

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  5. British Falconer's don't need a wild take of Peregrine's, they have been self sufficient in breeding enough to satisfy the market for decades, many have trouble selling the smaller males on, stinks of commercialism to me, selling the offspring for vastly inflated prices

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    1. Hi Merlin, I can assure you there will be no commercial use. My intentions are firstly based on conservation concerns and then allowing new generations of falconers to connect with their cultural heritage and the importance of healthy wild population to falconry.

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      1. How can taking a wild creature from its natural environment to be used as a breeding machine be called conservation?
        Leave peregrines to live the lives they evolved to live. They are not toys for falconers to fly.
        Prosecute those who persecute to the full extent of the law. Wild creatures belong in the wild. Born free to live free. Human hands off.

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  6. Perhaps, Mark, offer Mr Wall (who's got the licence) a guest blog to convince us all of why this is essential and how it help Peregrine conservation?

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  7. This is a very positive move forward.
    Having in the last 10 years bred non-indigenous Saker and Gyr falcons (and hybrids) and Red Tail Hawks I see this as an opportunity to protect wild stocks of British Peregrine falcons.
    God forbid the indigenous birds should ever develop a disease or suffer a catastrophic population crash, these taken birds would then be a national insurance policy. After taking and breeding the initial birds and a bloodline book is established, I would then use this data to provide a breeding season egg swap from captative birds to the nests free birds to protect and strengthen the existing population.

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    1. Hi Gareth, if the British Peregrine population status was under threat the law wouldn't allow any take or manipulation but yes, the project will be an insurance policy and fits in with the IUCN's policy on captive breeding in that captive populations should be establishes when the population status is positive, as it is now, not at a time when it faces extinction.

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  8. Is this not a underhand way of gamekeepers to remove pergs, call me cynical until we find out who is behind this.

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  9. If for whatever reason projects such as this are deemed necessary, it should be quite simple to ensure a net gain to the wild population, by hacking at least the same number of captive
    reared birds back, as are taken.
    A bird released after its first winter is far more viable than a newly fledged juvenile.

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    1. That is, of course, how falconry used to be. Now, it is more of a commercial enterprise with falcons being sold overseas.

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      1. Hi Simon, yes, the dynamics of falconry is greatly effected by commercial enterprise but at the same time it also supplies Middle East countries with birds that without would put massive pressure on wild populations so its a hard call ! There are still many falconers in this country who are passionate about their cultural heritage and raptor conservation. Many of us, like they did in the US, would come forward and do what we could to help any populations that were under threat.

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    2. Hi Trapit, I did have some discussion about taking clutches of eggs from vulnerable sites, putting some chicks back and retaining some but was told by JNCC this level of conservation measure wasn't required for peregrines at this time.

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        1. They can’t be legally exported if that’s what you mean - CITES. So they’ll remain in Britain.

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        2. I have read all the comments I am wondering now if the Arabs are backing this for a stud book as we are an island an have many different sub races in Britain from the near continent that will mix with are own race. I have been a raptor researcher for 40 years and have recorded different sub species in Britain.

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  10. Sounds like a nonsense to me. 'Stud book of British peregrines', just who are they trying to kid? I'm sure the falconry community have helped themselves to plenty of our wild peregrines in the past. I seem to remember that their predation of nests ranked alongside those of egg collectors. Perhaps, as is often the case, NE lack any solid background on this issue and are hence gullible.

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  11. 1840 called. It wants it’s mentality back.

    Just let them live free by the sword of the wild and let’s protect them from persecution and illegal wildlife trade.

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  12. I expect this will generate FoI requests and I’ll be interested to see the licence application assessments and correspondence, also what statutory justification from the Wildlife and Countryside Act is used, surely not Conservation of Wild Birds?

    One of the lead wildlife advisers at NE specialising in birds (he recently licensed Curlew egg collection for head starting) is also a life-long falconer and specialist member of The Hawk Board since 2018, an organisation closely linked to the Countryside Alliance that “works continuously and tirelessly to protect all our rights to keep and fly raptors” https://www.hawkboard.uk/. Far be it from me to suggest conflicts of interest but I’d be interested to know if he was involved in assessing this licence.

    It sets a very bad precedent.

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    1. Excellent comment. I did wonder about conflict of interest. Thank you for clarifying this. As you say this could generate FOI requests.

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  13. Surely the first step in unpicking the "mish mash" would be to undertake a comprehensive DNA profile of the existing captive breeding stock. This may indicate that there are sufficient wild types within the current domestic flock.
    Of course it may also show where the most recently pinched birds are.....?.... so maybe its less risky to get legal authority to pinch some new ones.....

    And surely the taking of 6 birds (sex mix?) would not be an adequate genetic reserve to repopulate the wild population following a disaster? So this will have to be ongoing....annually.

    Oh what a can of worms....

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  14. English Nature used to be a conservation organisation, but since it was rebranded as Natural England it has become difficult to say whether conservation is still part of its remit. All there seem to have been is one controversy after another: licences to shoot songbirds, licences to shoot buzzards etc. Now we have the introduction of District level licencing for crested newts, and eventually bats and other protected species, which looks suspiciously like a wheeze to make it easier for developers to circumvent species protection legislation. Whatever next? ..... Oh look licences to take peregrines!

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