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Falcon Conservation Threatens Racing Pigeons

Conservation efforts have led to a boost in the UK population of peregrine falcons. The birds of prey are being encouraged to nest on church roofs. Norwich, Salisbury and Derby cathedrals have all installed nesting boxes for the falcons. But many pigeon fanciers are unhappy with the increasing number of the birds in urban areas.

Pigeons on the Missing List

It is becoming more common for racing pigeons to fail to return home as they can fall prey to the falcons. Fanciers report that the problem is getting worse every year due to the emergence of breeding boxes for the falcons in towns and cities.

Image Problem

Racing pigeons are not popular with the general public as many people view them as vermin, confusing the birds with feral pigeons. This makes it hard to enthusiasts to gain support for their sport or sympathy for their losses. But racing pigeons are very different to feral birds. They are bred for speed and stamina and tend to be slimmer than their wild cousins.

Peregrine Falcons in the UK

There are thought to be 1,500 pairs of falcons in the UK. More and more churches are installing nesting boxes for them after noticing the birds nesting on their roofs. There has been no organised plan to help the birds on the part of the church but their presence has represented a good PR opportunity.

The churches install webcams and provide updates on the activities and well-being of the falcons. Salisbury Cathedral has been monitoring its falcons since 2014 and rings chicks which are born in its nesting box. The box was introduced after a peregrine falcon laid its eggs on a public walkway! These were later abandoned.

Staff at the cathedral point out that they didn’t invite the falcons to nest there, the birds were in the area anyway. They have expressed their sympathy regarding the loss of pigeons.

The Royal Pigeons

In 2005, one of the Queen’s pigeons went missing and was presumed dead after it failed to return from a training flight shortly before an important race. At the time, it was thought that the pigeon had been taken by a hawk.

The Royal family has been keeping racing pigeons for more than 100 years. There are currently 170 birds being kept at the royal loft which is located at Sandringham. It isn’t known whether there have been further losses form the royal collection. But there is a peregrine breeding box on the roof of Norwich Cathedral which is just 40 miles away.

This is clearly one of those situations where it would be impossible to please everyone. It is hard to argue against conservation efforts but it must be heart-breaking to lose a prized pigeon. Any pigeon fancier who seeks to harm a falcon will find themselves in deep water as the birds are protected.

Do you keep pigeons and have you noticed an increase in the number of birds which fail to return home?


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