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Urban Peregrines

Handbook / ManualMonograph

By: Ed Drewitt (Author), Chris Packham (Foreword By)

208 pages, colour photos

Pelagic Publishing

Hardback | Jun 2014 | #209906 | ISBN-13: 9781907807817
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £24.99 $32/€30 approx

About this book

The Peregrine, the fastest bird in the world, has made a remarkable recovery over the past 30 years. As the species re-establishes itself around the world it is becoming a familiar sight in towns and cities.

This beautifully illustrated book is the first in-depth focus on the lives of Peregrines in towns and cities. In words and stunning photographs, Ed Drewitt reveals the latest information on Peregrine behavior including how they are adapting to, and taking advantage of, the urban environment.

Urban Peregrines is also a how-to-guide, with information on finding peregrines, studying their diet, ringing individuals for research, putting up nest boxes and enabling people to learn more about them through public viewing points or web cameras.

Ed also discusses what makes a Peregrine urban, their contemporary relationship with people, and helps dispel some myths and reveal some truths about this agile predator.

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"A fascinating insight into the life of our top urban predator"
– Stephen Moss, Naturalist, author and TV producer

"Peregrines! The biggest urban conservation story to hit our cities is gloriously revealed in this wonderful book"
– Mike Dilger, TV presenter and naturalist
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"Urban Peregrines is published with near-perfect timing, arriving during the final stages of the 2014 UK Peregrine Survey. The recent fortunes of Peregrines in the UK have been varied, but the towns and cities focused on within this book provide the scene for a remarkable and ongoing success story. Ed Drewitt gives us a book written in interesting and conversational prose, with a wealth of observations on a wide range of Peregrine-related topics. There is particularly satisfying detail on the startlingly varied diet of Peregrines living in our cities and also, appropriately, on the ways in which wild Peregrines interact with and are affected by people. The book is copiously illustrated with photographs, not only of Peregrines, but of the birds they eat and the urban environments they live in. I recommend it for anyone wanting to better acquaint themselves with one of our most iconic and charismatic birds."

– Mark Wilson, BTO book reviews, September 2014

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"Following the cessation of persecution and DDT poisoning, peregrine falcon populations have increased everywhere and they have colonised the cities of Europe, North America and Australia. This success in seemingly hostile urban environments requires specific adaptations. These adaptations are the focus of the author, an enthusiast who has spent years following peregrines in several English towns. All the details of their social, reproductive and hunting behaviour are described simply (Drewitt is not a scientist) but precisely and thoroughly, allowing the reader to understand why and how this remarkable falcon benefits from the often artificial urban environment. His descriptions are fascinating: the peregrine's extremely varied diet, nocturnal hunting for migratory birds, the storage of numerous surplus kills, the incessant comings and goings of different individuals and the movements of these supposedly sedentary birds, and the observed cases of trios, polygyny or incest, and other little known aspects of the life of peregrines. It is also, however, a detailed manual of how to observe and study the species, how to collect feathers when deploying tags and nesting sites, and how to manage threats that affect falcons through good relations with the general public. It is also an opportunity to take stock of the myths surrounding the relationship between peregrines, pigeons, gulls and corvids. The photos are numerous, if small, and generally very instructive, and reference is made to the situation in other countries, even if there are no precise references (even the bibliography at the end is succinct). The reading of the text is made easier by this, but it is not possible to deepen one's appreciation of the comparisons made by referring to them. All in all, a book that is easy to read, stuffed with practical information and original observations, essential reading for those who are interested in peregrines, even if it does deal almost exclusively with the English population."

– Jean Marc Thiollay, ORNITHOS, October 2014

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For most of my life, Peregrines Falco peregrinus were considered to be rare, nesting remotely in wild parts of the uplands or on tall coastal cliffs. They were symbols of wilderness, rarely seen except by those making a special effort. They sometimes appeared in towns, and on rare occasions had nested there, but it was not until the late 1990s that they occupied urban areas in a big way, colonizing many towns and cities, and nesting on the tallest buildings, such as cathedrals. There are now around 100 known pairs nesting regularly on buildings in Britain, including around 50 pairs in city centres. The birds have suddenly become urbanized. They accept high-placed nestboxes of various kinds, and many have been watched through web-cams, giving round-the-clock footage of behaviour. Any city dweller with time to spare can pause and watch the birds themselves, or with the aid of a video-screen, their behaviour at the nest. Experienced observers are often on hand to offer help, and thousands of people have visited cathedrals for ornithological reasons.

This book is essentially an account of one man's experience of urban Peregrines, setting out what he has learned from his own observations or gleaned from his interactions with other Peregrine enthusiasts, mostly in other cities. The book is nicely written and seems to be intended mainly for people interested in starting similar studies themselves. It gives useful hints on matters such as how to design and erect nestboxes, how to find and identify prey remains, and how to ring the young, and just as important, how to work successfully in places full of people. The book has many good-quality colour photographs, showing different aspects of structure, plumage and behaviour.

One surprise is the wide range of prey species eaten by urban Peregrines, not just the expected pigeons (Columbidae), but many other birds, apparently intercepted as they travel over cities, including terns (Sternidae) and Kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla, waders, crakes and rails (Rallidae). It seems that hunting at night from a high perch is fairly common, as the lights of the city make some low-flying birds visible from below. Night hunting is thought to explain the presence among kills of Woodcocks Scolopax rusticola, Corn Crakes Crex crex, grebes (Podicipedidae) and other nocturnal migrants. Another interesting finding is the extent to which Peregrines kill and cache prey for future use, taking advantage of good days (or nights) to stockpile prey which are then consumed on bad days. One case of incest was recorded (son mated to mother, having replaced father, checked by DNA analysis), adding to several other examples recorded elsewhere. Despite the vast amount of research on Peregrines in the past, city nesting has provided opportunities for recording aspects of behaviour difficult to watch in more natural settings, and has revealed some newly discovered aspects of Peregrine behaviour, all ripe for further more detailed study.

How much you like this book will depend on what you expect to get from it. What you will not find is any discussion of why urban nesting took off when it did, or of how it spread across the country. Nor will you find anything on the nesting success of urban Peregrines, and how it compares with previous findings from more natural settings. In fact, you will find no quantitative data or analyses of any kind. It is not that type of book. But let us hope that the author or some other enthusiast will pull together the newly collected information on urban Peregrines, recording the onset and spread of this new behaviour, before it disappears with fading memories.

– Ian Newton, IBIS, Volume 157, Issue 1, January 2015

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Another book on Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus? Well yes, but one with a difference, and surely there can’t be too many books about ‘the ultimate bird’. This is a fascinating volume, written with an infectious enthusiasm that will appeal to experienced watchers and beginners alike. Following a foreword by Chris Packham, the book is split into 11 chapters, covering areas such as ‘How to study Peregrines’, ‘People and Peregrines’ and ‘Myths about Peregrines’, as well as such thorny issues such as ‘Peregrines and Pigeons’. Throughout, the focus is on studying Peregrines in urban environments, on ringing, prey species and how to collect and identify prey items.

The closer relationship with humans brought about through their use of towns and cities has, in part, allowed us to study urban Peregrines in greater detail, and this comes across well in this book. Facts about the Peregrine are presented in an informative and interesting way that appeals to a wide audience: for example, Peregrines in a stoop fly in a curve rather than straight at their prey, and the G-force they experience is considerably more than a fighter pilot! Each of the very readable chapters is brimming with facts and complemented by photographs of a high standard that beautifully illustrate its pages and complement the adjacent text.

I found few mistakes, although the maps on pp. 136–137 would have been better with only one arrow illustrating the direction of migration. I personally would not have included the ghoulish photo of the Common Gull Larus canus on p. 78, and occasionally I found that similar information was reused in different parts of the book.

This book provides sound recommendations for those who want to set up Peregrine projects in towns and to study both the birds and their prey. I have personally been involved with urban Peregrines for seven years but still learnt much from the wealth of knowledge contained in this book, and have already returned to re-read some chapters a second time. With the Peregrine population increasing in southern England, and many birds adapting to an urban setting, what better opportunity can there be to get young people involved in wildlife than by introducing them to the fastest bird in the world? Here it is, right on their doorstep; and this book certainly helps the process.

Anyone with an interest in Peregrines will want to buy this book, but especially those who want to be involved in an urban Peregrine project, and I can highly recommend it.

–Mike Wallen, British Birds, January 2015

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Overall, I think the author’s enthusiasm and dedication for these magnificent creatures shines through. He highlights a bird that is fascinating, sharp, and handsome, and makes the science of them accessible to the public. And I’m always for revealing behaviors and attitudes that that we can work on in order to make more conscientious decisions that affect conservation. Generally, it seems most people embrace the peregrine falcon for the awesomeness that it is, and Urban Peregrines teaches us more about them and how we can live in harmony with them. –Maureen Leong-Kee, Hipster Birders


Contents

About the author
Foreword
Preface

1 The Peregrine   1
2 What is an Urban Peregrine?   33
3 How to Spot a Peregrine   41
4 A Year in the Life of an Urban Peregrine   48
5 Food and Feeding   75
6 How to Study Peregrines   104
7 Ringing Urban Peregrines   125
8 Myths about Peregrines   140
9 Changing Threats and the Future of the Urban Peregrine   145
10 People and Peregrines   162
11 Where Next?   187

Further reading   193
Acknowledgements   195
Photographers   196
Index   203


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Biography

Ed Drewitt is a professional naturalist, wildlife detective, learning consultant/trainer, and broadcaster. He has been studying urban Peregrines for over 15 years, specialising in colour ringing their chicks and identifying what they have been eating.

Ed spends a lot of his time showing people wildlife, specialising in teaching birdsong, and helping others to identify, appreciate, and get hands on with nature. He also takes people around the world on holiday tours to see a variety of animals including whales, dolphins, and a variety of birds.

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