Hopes Norwich Cathedral peregrine falcons will breed

Peregrine falcon on Norwich Cathedral (Photo: Hawk and Owl Trust) A pair of peregrine falcons are currently settled on Norwich Cathedral

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Birdwatchers are hoping two falcons who have settled on Norwich Cathedral will become only the second pair to breed in Norfolk in 200 years.

There have been reports of peregrine falcons on the spire since 2009.

However, a male and female recently made the landmark their permanent home after a platform for them to rest on was built by the Hawk and Owl Trust.

"We've got wild wildlife in the centre of Norwich - it's fantastic," said Nigel Middleton from the trust.

"There's a chance they might not breed this year - I'm only going 50-50 at the moment. The male is much more mature than the female," he added.

Once a common sight in Britain, peregrine falcon numbers rapidly declined in the 19th and 20th Centuries because of illegal shooting and use of certain pesticides on farms.

Numbers have begun to replenish in areas including Scotland but in the east of England it has been more of a struggle.

Tall buildings

The first permanent recording of a breeding pair in Norfolk for hundreds of years was made last year at a granary site in North Lynn.

It is not uncommon for tall buildings to be used as homes for birds of prey and Norwich Cathedral is no exception.

"Peregrines like to breed in high places, but there aren't that many high places in Norfolk," said Mike Pearson from the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.

"They usually settle on cliffs and in quarries, but a building is not much different to them.

Norwich Cathedral The falcons have settled by the south-east window of Norwich Cathedral spire

"You can find peregrines on other cathedrals around the country too - there's currently ones at Bath, Derby and Lincoln," he added.

It has taken a while for the Norwich peregrines to settle after their first home, which was built for the falcons in May last year, proved ineffective.

"We knew in our own hearts the first home wasn't going to be suitable for them because they like a ledge rather than an enclosed box," said Mr Middleton.

"At the end of last year we negotiated with the cathedral to come up with a new design and implement a nesting box that would be suitable for peregrines, but also not damage the fabric of the cathedral.

"In December we got permission and went ahead."

"We are really pleased to be working with the Hawk and Owl Trust on such an exciting project and the cathedral clergy have been most supportive," said Phil Thomas, estates manager at Norwich Cathedral.

A camera has been fitted above the nesting platform to record the progress of the peregrines.

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