Police in Staffordshire investigating theft of peregrine chicks.

THIEVES are suspected of stealing four peregrine falcon chicks from their nest at a beauty spot in the second week of June. Police and wildlife experts are investigating the disappearance of the young birds of prey from a nesting site at the Roaches, in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT), which had been keeping the nest under observation, believes the chicks were just two weeks away from being able to fly.

Now SWT – which has just taken over the running of the Roaches – is working with Staffordshire Police and the Peak District National Park Authority to find out what happened to the birds.

Peregrines are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to intentionally disturb them when they are nesting.

SWT Roaches warden Jeff Sim said: “The nest has been inspected and very sadly the chicks have disappeared.

“It’s difficult to explain this naturally, so we are working with the police and the Peak District National Park Authority to investigate the loss.

“We’d like to thank the national park authority and the many volunteers we have worked with to run the Peregrine Watch scheme and keep an eye on the nest.

“More than 5,000 people enjoyed seeing the birds this year thanks to the scheme. This year’s setback will not reduce our resolve to watch over the site again.”

Peregrines are famed for their hunting stoops, during which they reach speeds of 200mph, making them the fastest animals in the world. Their eggs are often stolen for collectors – although there is not an active black market for chicks.

Lesley Smith, who is the treasurer at Gentleshaw Wildlife Centre, in Eccleshall, said: “The price of captive bred falcons has come down a lot in recent years. So really it isn’t even worth the risk, as whenever anyone is caught, the authorities come down on them like a ton of bricks.

“It is a great pity that things like this happen. This was an established pair which had found a good nesting site.”

Staffordshire Police want to hear from anyone who is offered the chicks for sale. It is thought the thieves struck on June 2.

A spokesman said: “The chicks were around two weeks away from fledging. They would be the size of a pigeon and are white and fluffy.

“Peregrine falcons are a rare species which means the birds, their nests, and eggs, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them when nesting.”

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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