St Annes Peregrines, a success story following the shooting of the breeding female.

On the 21st February we reported the death of an adult female Peregrine, one of an established breeding pair, recovered from the tower at St Thomas church in St Annes on the 17th February where breeding has taken place for several season. You can read the full harrowing account of the falcons death and recovery HERE.

The corpse of the Peregrine was found by members of the North West Raptor Protection Group lying in a rain gutter face down 160 feet above the church car park. From information provided by a local birder the falcons body was first observed lying prone in the gutter on the 8th January, but this detail had not been passed on.  On the day the Peregrine’s body was removed from the rain gutter, Terry Pickford had been invited to visit the top of the tower at the same time a BT engineer had planned to provide an estimate for replacement telecom wiring on the tower roof. The corpse of the dead Peregrine had been identified to Terry lying prone in the gutter before he joined the engineer on the tower where the nesting box had been located. On the same day the NWRPG had been able to arrange the immediate removal of the dead Peregrine with the generous help provided by the St Anne’s Fire Rescue Service who willingly agreed to abseil down the tower and recover the peregrines corpse.

After an X Ray of the body had been arranged by the NWRPG with a local St Anne’s veterinary practice it was quickly established the Peregrine had been shot by a single lead pellet. An autopsy arranged by the police also established the female Peregrine had been shot. Toxicology results showed there was an unusually high concentration of lead residue found in the liver tissue. Under the circumstances because of the unusually high levels of lead detected in tissue tested, it is a probability the Peregrine had died from lead poisoning in the gutter where  it was discovered.

Members of the North West Raptor Protection Group found it extraordinary that the male falcon had remained on the tower making no attempt to search for a new mate. However, within six days of the Peregrine’s corpse being removed the male was seen perched alongside a new mate at the top of the tower. What a truly remarkable development, making bonding between the two falcons a possibility and any potential breeding in the 2017 season now a likely possibility.  Since the NWRPG was founded in 1967 members of this group had never witnessed this kind of unusual behaviour in the 50 years the group have been involved with the conservation of Peregrines. The group felt the arrival of the new female  at the tower turned a very sad and disappointing situation into a truly remarkable cinderella story for the people of St Annes and the wider community, many of who had voiced their anger following the death of the first female when the story appeared in the local press.



Things turned out better than expected this spring at the church, the replacement female successfully bonding with the resident male, and after numerous and noisy matings were observed each day over several weeks three healthy chicks were produced. By mid June all the chicks had been named by Elle Crawforth the local resident who raised funds to pay for the CCTV at the church.  The 2 male chicks were named Thomas and Thistle and the female named  Emma, and were seen on a daily basis perched on the top of the tower wall where they would feed upon any prey item they greedily received from their parents.  Interaction and noise levels intensified each time the adult falcons passed food to their fledged offspring around the top of the tower. Church goers and locals alike walking across the car park became accustomed and amazed at the sight of the falcon’s noisy aerobatic  skills as the chicks grew stronger.



As the young falcons began testing their flight skills the inevitable happened, one of the male chicks ‘Thomas’ decided to take wing on Sunday 18th June landed in the middle of a busy road some 300 metres away from the tower. As luck would have it ‘Thomas’ was picked up immediately from the road by a seemingly knowledgeable pedestrian and taken to the Turbury Woods Owl & Bird of Prey Centre at Whitestake near Preston. After ‘Thomas’ had been inspected he was found to have suffered no injuries.

The video below shows the moment ‘Thomas’ was reunited with his two sibling in the top of the tower after his unfortunate experience. Both chick remained unperturbed and uninterested in the whole operation. The two parent falcons very quickly settled down after the door into the tower had been closed and relocked.

We would hope ‘Thomas’ has learned a valuable lesson and hopefully there will be no other hard landings or flight issues in the forthcoming days. All three fledged chicks are now doing well and have each mastered the skills of free flight reducing the chance of any more mishaps.




Every one associated with this very successful project are to be congratulated on a job well done. The NWRPG are looking forward to the return of the falcons next year onto the tower where they belong; like everyone we wish the pair and their 3 chicks a safe and secure passage through the autumn and winter to come. We hope the young Peregrines will choose to stay well away from the Forest of Bowland, where they will most certainly not be made welcome.


The above video returning Thomas to the church tower was captured by Julie and Andy Bilsborough from Turbury Woods Owl & Bird of Prey Centre, Whitestake near Preston.

As a final thought we now would hope the RSPB will now include the illegal shooting of the Peregrine Falcon at St Thomas’s church into their crime figures for 2017.


2 comments to St Annes Peregrines, a success story following the shooting of the breeding female.

  • Shaun Ankers

    Is the CCTV at St Thomas’ up and running now? My apologies if I missed it being announced.

    Editor’s Comment. Shaun, the CCTV at the church has been operational since April.

  • Debbie Rankin Bell

    So wonderful to watch this story unfold from across the ocean. It was such a happy ending. Looking forward to watching the continuing saga next season. From Ontario Canada.

    Editor’s Comment. Hi Debbie, there is now new information which no one was aware of. The nesting pair produced 4 chicks but only 3 fledged; unknown to anyone there was a 4th male which after leaving the nest box could not fly and remained on the floor of the tower for 3 weeks being fed by the adult falcons. It appears this male weighs only 14 ounces and has a genetic issue. All the males outward features are in perfect symmetry with is unusual small size, but he has no wing muscle. He was removed and handed to a registered raptor keeper who is now trying to increase wing muscle, by a rigorous programme of exercise. At the moment the male is now just able to jump from the ground up onto his block, but that has taken three weeks so far. We will keep everyone updated. What we are able to tell everyone, when the little male is sat on this perch he appears perfectly normal, a miniature male peregrine, about the size of a female merlin. Very unusual indeed.