News: Natural England and the Peregrine chicks – not quite true…

You’ll probably remember the furore over Natural England licensing the taking of 6 Peregrine chicks from the wild in England. Well, when I say remember, it has hardly died down. See my original blog, Gary Wall’s guest blog, a further blog by me and a guest blog by OneKind’s Bob Elliot.

We all thought, probably because of this part of Natural England’s licensing director’s blog, that six Peregrine chicks would be taken and each would be the smallest of its brood.

But if you look at the very recently published details of the redacted licences they say this (see para 15):

Smallest chick from the first nest and the smallest of opposite-gender chicks from the second nest, which might be the smallest from that nest (50% chance) or might be the second smallest (25% chance), or might even be the largest of three (12.5% chance) or there might not even be a chick of the right gender in a brood of three (12.5% chance) depending on the distribution of W-chromosomes in the brood.

So that stuff about weakest chicks was at best misleading or slightly worse than that. It’s a Hancockian/Johnsonian approach to the truth.

It also occurs to me that there is the possibility (perhaps indicated by the phrase ‘up to two’ birds in ‘additional conditions’, para 1, that the licensee might draw a blank in the second nest in finding a chick of the necessary gender. If so, that pair will have been disturbed for nothing, and the licence will have run out (as I read it, because it stipulates the number of chicks that can be disturbed too (see top of licence)) and that means the licensee will be left with one chick (unless Natural England issue another licence).

But the main thing is -not the smallest chicks of six nest but the smallest chicks in three nests and we’ll hve to see what happens in the other three.

I’m grateful to some Peregrine experts in chatting to me about this.

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19 Replies to “News: Natural England and the Peregrine chicks – not quite true…”

  1. The nest thieves are lying liars who lied, I am so shocked. These people need to be protested directly over this issue. They are breeders and sellers and should be located, named, and shamed.

  2. This is the thin end of the wedge. Remember, it was always going to be only a very small number of licences that would be granted to kill buzzards. Now there are licences allowing the killing of up to 60 buzzards ( But it’s OK because there’s plenty more.

    I predict that the same thing will happen with peregrines. In 2 to 3 years there will be further licences issued once this furore has dies down. This is simply to soften us up.

    Anyone interested in a sweepstake?

    1. And licences from anglers to cull cormorants and ducks pretty much go through on a nod and a wink too now. There are angling groups talking about asking for licence to cull otter and herons now too. The whole licence system is just not fit for purpose and ripe for abuse.

  3. Surely it doesn’t really matter how one wraps up the weasel words ,The whole consent is an utter disgrace on the part of Natural England and this wretched Government, who I am sure are at the back of all this. Anything to help a business and make money regardless of any principles and the wildlife involved.

  4. Well so much for the integrity of the gene pool if a reintroduction was ever necessary.

    Maybe, centuries into the future, bird guides will recognise the dwarf peregrines of the UK as a separate species as they will be too small to breed with birds from mainland Europe.

    1. Stuart, what do you mean? Because they can take the smallest chick? They are not a different species of bird or dwarfs, the smallest chick is the last to hatch and often does not survive unless there is enough food! But they grow up to be the same size as any other Peregrine if they survive!

      This is very common in Raptors with very often only one chick surviving, as anyone with the basic knowledge would know.

      This is actually a sound approach, as the chicks taken may not have survived anyway, hence no actual reduction in the viable population of a Peregrines.

      None of which will matter to those who believe in some sort of alternative universe where man has no interaction with nature other than to watch it. The same people of course who if they actually lived their lives in accordance with their naive beliefs would soon find that their lives would be very different.

      The hypocrisy and naivety revealed in the replies on this subject are astounding!

      1. Matthew – it never looks good to overstate your case and try to slate those with another view to the extent that you have in your last two paras.

        Your comment started to depart from the rational in para 3. When you say ‘may not have survived’ and then ‘hence no actual reduction’. The ‘hence’ depends on the ‘may’ doesn’t it?

        You then simply erect a straw man of what others believe whereas some of those who may disagree with you have a different view of how the world should be, not of how it actually is. And you surely don’t know how all these imaginary people live their real lives, do you?

        So when you end by calling these imaginary people hypocrites because they have beliefs that you have made up, and live lives of which you must be almost totally unaware, you would appear to any reasonable person to have lost the plot. So they might not take any notice of the actual facts that you mentioned in the first two paragraphs.

        Sorry, just had a few minutes to kill and I like analysing arguments.

        1. Mark,

          The hypocrisy is simple – unless your living a life which does not involve the exploitation of the natural world and its resources in any way – impossible as we now live, though I dare say its possible to live a balanced life where one uses resources sustainably – then those who have this candy floss view of mans interaction in nature are hypocrites.

          If you don’t drive, don’t use public transport, live off grid, don’t wear any clothes or consumables unless you know how and where the materials are sourced, how the clothes were made and by whom and how they were transported, are vegan, don’t drink alcohol, don’t attend any sports (especially those involving animals) don’t kill anything, that includes all insects etc. – in short don’t live in the modern world, then some of the views expressed are pure fantasy!

          They are not beliefs, they are unrealistic fantasies and in the case of the dwarf Peregrines simply not true! When fantasy and falsehoods are the order of the day its perfectly reasonable to come to a conclusion about the people who makes these comments.

          So if any of the people who have made these comments live lives like these then I’d be happy to accept my judgement to be wrong, however I’d wager a large sum of money that they don’t.

          1. Matthew – you have invented this candy floss view of life and invented the lives of the people who hold the view that you invented.

            You must be a lot cleverer than youa re retending to be here – surely?

            thanks for your comments – they make me laugh.

          2. Am I alone in finding Matthew Dick’s invective offensive? Quite apart from the spouting of Abrahamic nonsense about nature being incapable of looking after itself, he paints those of us with the temerity to demur at the plundering of peregrine nests as being hypocritical, ersatz 21st century hippies. I wish. Apart from having an uncritical belief that only humans can manage the planet, what is his problem? It’s not candy floss; it’s nasty, undemocratic and anti-science. What interests does have to declare?

          3. This is what American falconers do to conserve raptors across the world. They started off by breeding peregrines to replace the native anatum peregrine that was extinct east of the Rockies, only problem was is they had to create a breeding programme from sub-species of peregrines that weren’t native so although they have done an amazing job of reintroducing the species its not the species that were there previously. The IUCN recognise this issue in their policy statement on captive breeding in that a captive population should be created while there’s a healthy source from the wild which is the position with the UK population right now.
            My experience over the last few weeks brings to mind a line from Kipling poem “IF” – “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. People aren’t interested in the “truth” but prefer to make up lies which support their own agendas making this project into a scam to sell birds to wealthy arab shiekh’s which couldn’t be further from the truth but then people dont want to believe the truth because it doesn’t fit in with their warped agenda – how could an nest robbing falconer ever want to do something positive for the conservation of a raptor species ! Watch the P-Fund video on youtube, this is the truth about what Falconers do !

      2. Matthew Dick is correct in one respect, namely that the chicks taken will be the smallest of their brood (or the smallest of the opposite gender to the first) because of their position in the hatching sequence not because of any genetic dwarfism. Breeding from them would not, in itself, risk creating a dwarf breed. However, a more legitimate concern is that a population bred from a very small number of founders will rapidly become inbred and potentially subject to a variety of congenital defects. No doubt breeders will be as aware of this as anyone else and will therefore continually press for the introduction of fresh genes from the wild stock. This means that the ‘thin end of the wedge’ referred to by Alick above is a real concern with who knows how many licences applied for/issued in the future.

        1. Jonathan,

          Is not the point of the exercise to introduce new genes to avoid the effects of inbreeding? So the population being bred will not be solely from these few chicks taken from the wild?

          I think the concern about what happens in the future is justifiable but as far as I am aware this hasn’t been a regular licence in the past couple of decades and therefore it should not be the case that it becomes regular practice? Natural England should be pressed on this point as to what is the likely hood of a further application being approved?

          1. Matthew – please keep commenting as your comments would form a great set of examples for logical flaws.

            Because something didn’t happen then it won’t happen in the future?

      3. I think you make a good point. The weakest chicks will be weaker only because they were born later and not because of some genetic shortcoming.

        However your accusation that opponents of this scheme are hypocrites makes you sound arrogant and pompous.

        The desire to protect bird of prey populations and references to thin wedges are perfectably understandable given the past extermination of some species which are only now, at great expense and with the expenditure of great effort, in the face of opposition from the usual institutions, being made good.

        There are well financed and connected lobby groups that gain easy access to the ears of environment ministers, and a government that has progressively hobbled the body that should be making a moral stance against the commercialisation of nature, especially given the existence of other ways of solving this apparent problem.

        The respondents here have through bitter experience learned of the duplicity and self-interest of many who would choose to reduce, eliminate or make easy money from our native species.

        They are also well aware of how sneaky initiatives like these can set precedents, to such an extent that the tsunami of destruction can be almost impossible to stop once it has gained momentum.

        Thank heaven they are cynical about a mercenary government and those who whisper in its ear and take the trouble to take the profiteers to task.

        1. You’re cynical comments just about sums up the state of our society in 2020. I am 60 years old, my Mother went to church twice a day and my Father spent 6 years in the Navy fighting for my freedom, I am what they call “old school”. I’ve spent time with Arabs who have wealth beyond most people’s imagination but yearn for a connection with the desert and the Bedouin roots, happier in a tent in the desert than a 20 million dollar home. I’ve spent time with the other end of the wealth scale in the Guinea rain forest, people who live on a dollar a day and appear more content with their life so I read your comments about commercialism with dismay in that even when someone tries to do something positive these days its viewed with suspicion, what a sad world !
          What do you suggest to be the answer to reduce the number of non native peregrines being flown and lost in the UK by British falconers ? If you want to give me a lecture on animal rights and there’s no place for my cultural heritage in the modern world then please save your breath.

  5. I agree with Random22. The other two people should be named. What is their interest in this so called conservation project. Surely they would be proud of it, if indeed it is a conservation project. Who goes out with these people to collect the chicks? Is it self regulation as many of these things are? I think NE may regret their decision.

  6. Its the truth your honour….it was a male when we collected it….it just grew up and turn into a female….. honest…… Do you want me to put it back now?

  7. Mark,
    do you have any knowledge of peregrine chick growth rates ?
    I do, if anyone’s interested !

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