King’s College London has revealed that London’s peregrine falcons were forced to switch up their diets during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they began to feed on more parakeets instead of pigeons which left urban with the lack of passers-by to feed them.
Researchers used online nest cameras to observe peregrine diets and breeding patterns across 31 sites in 27 UK cities over the course of three breeding seasons, one of which was during the England-wide lockdown.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world and they also are nesting in various locations in Hertfordshire.
They have been seen or bred at:
- Watford’s Charter House Hostel
- St Albans Cathedral
- Welwyn Garden City’s old Shredded Wheat silos
The study found that during the lockdown period (March to June 2020), 35% of the peregrine falcons’ diet was made up of pigeons, while 36% was starlings and 18% was parakeets. In the following periods, pigeons accounted for almost half of their diet.
Brandon Mak from King’s College London said: “Peregrine falcons are not fussy eaters and they will eat whatever birds they can find.”
The world’s fastest birds, peregrines, first began to flock to UK cities in the 1990s, attracted by the abundance of pigeons. Now, London is home to an estimated 40 breeding pairs.
Bird conservation charities are hopeful that these birds could help address the growing populations of ring-necked parakeets and pigeons, which may be harming native wildlife.
Mr Mak said: “I am all for natural biological pest control and the peregrine falcons eating parakeets is a good way of controlling their population.”
This research will contribute to the Global Anthropause Raptor Research Network that is looking at how birds of prey around the world were affected by lockdowns.