Rare peregrine falcons given chance to breed in Sheffield

Rare peregrine falcons are being encouraged to nest in the city for the first time after the University of Sheffield constructed a special platform on St George's Church in the Portobello area.

Over the last few years, the birds have been seen flying over Sheffield on a fairly regular basis, but have never successfully nested. After receiving advice from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the University's Department of Estates constructed the platform inside the tower of St George's Church in the hope of encouraging the birds to make their home in central Sheffield.

Peregrine falcons have previously been an endangered species due to pesticides, illegal persecution from gamekeeping interests and being a target for egg collectors. Their population has steadily increased since the 1970s because of better legal protection and control of pesticides. The birds are usually found around the sea coast but have recently been seen in more built up areas, and have bred successfully on buildings and bridges in several cities.

It is hoped that a webcam will be added to the platform in the coming months, so that the public will be able to view the birds nesting.

Dr David Wood, Head of the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Sheffield, and Chair of the Sheffield Bird Study Group, has led the project after seeing similar platforms successfully constructed and used in Derby, Manchester and Lincoln.

Dr David Wood said: "Peregrines have come back from the brink in Britain over the last few decades, with just one sighting a year on average in the Peak District through the 1960s and 70s. To have the chance now of seeing these magnificent birds around Sheffield city centre is very exciting. It's fantastic that the University has supported this initiative, which shows a good commitment to local conservation and environmental issues. This also fits very well with the Sheffield Bird Study Group's recent Atlas of Breeding Birds, which has mapped the breeding distribution of all species in our area and compares that picture against a baseline from 1975-80, when peregrines were non-existent as a breeding bird locally. For the University to be such a key partner in all of this is great news."

Phil Riley, Energy Manager in the University's Department of Estates, said: "I'm thrilled that we've been able to site the platform in time for the start of the peregrine breeding cycle in February. Thanks are due to the RSPB for their advice and to Jim Lonsdale in our internal Technical Services team for getting the platform constructed. We know these beautiful birds sit on the St George's Church tower, and we are now quietly optimistic they'll use it to nest on."

For further information please contact: Lauren Anderson, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2221046 or email l.h.anderson@sheffield.ac.uk