Ornis Hungarica. vol.26(2). (2018) p.177-187.
A 20-year study investigating the diet of Peregrines, Falco peregrinus, at an urban site in south-west England (1997–2017)
Until relatively recently Peregrines have been regarded as a rural bird. As their populations have increased over the past 20 years, Peregrines have increasingly become urban birds. One of the earliest locations to be occupied by Peregrines in the UK was on a church in Exeter, in the county of Devon. Over the past 20 years we have studied their diet, collecting prey remains on a regular basis. The results reveal that Feral Pigeons Columba livia comprise one third of the diet by frequency and just over half of the diet when measured by mass. The remainder of the diet comprises a wealth of other species including wading birds, other doves and pigeons, ducks, gulls and terns, and rails. A selection of species eaten by the Peregrines reveal that they are hunting at night, taking certain wading birds, rails and grebes, that would be difficult to catch by day and are known to migrate at night. This study is the most comprehensive to date and reveals that while the Feral Pigeon is an important part of the diet, contrary to public opinion, it is by no means the only species that Peregrines eat. In fact, the remaining half of the diet, by mass, comprised 101 other species of bird and three species of mammal. Such dietary studies help dispel myths about peregrines feeding habits and ensure that their conservation and protection is based on evidence.