Bat is a New Addition to the Peregrines’ Prey List

I have heard that peregrines can prey on bats, so I was interested to hear from two Wakefield peregrine followers on Thursday when they spotted what appeared to be a bat being brought to the nestbox by the male. A review of recorded footage earlier today confirmed the identification.

Male Peregrine With Bat

Male Peregrine With Bat

The recordings show that the male concentrates on catching young starlings but he also brings in a real variety of prey items. Another species that was confirmed today was greenfinch.

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14 Responses to Bat is a New Addition to the Peregrines’ Prey List

  1. Carl says:

    Arnt bats an indangered species ?

    • Francis Hickenbottom says:

      There are about 17 species of bat in the UK. Some are relatively common and others are rare. Even the less common species of animal have predators and, as for other species, most of their young will not survive to adulthood. Whilst we have seen the peregrines take significant numbers of some species, such as starling and redwing, we have seen only individuals of some other species. For example, we saw a swift that had been caught recently. This is the first bat that we have seen taken by the peregrines and I have not seen any other images of bat as peregrine prey in the UK, but I believe that they are caught occasionally. I am going to try to see if anyone can give some idea as to the species in the picture but I doubt that the image will be good enough.

      • John Gardner says:

        In response to Carl, yes bat are declining and afforded European Protected Species (EPS) status, unfortunately, the peregrines don’t appreciate that fact. Odd individual bats falling prey is not a real threat, the main threat comes from loss of habitat, loss of roost sites and damage or destruction to the nursery colonies, either intentionally or unintentionally by man.

        With regard to the species, I’m guessing, judging from the size of the bat compared to the peregrine, this is either a Leisler’s bat or noctule. The latter is Britain’s largest species of bat. Both Leisler’s and noctule are large, high flying bats that have few predators and they are out on the wing just before dusk when swifts and swallows are still flying. They are relatively slow flying and out in the open and so would be an easy target for a peregrine stooping from above. The tiny common pipistrelle emerge after dusk and fly low, around 20-25ft from the ground, are very fast and flying around trees etc. They would present a much more difficult catch for the peregrine.

        So, my guess is it’s one of the two Nyctalus species and I would be interested to see the footage at some point.

        • John Gardner says:

          Nick, thanks for your comment.

          The peregrines were on the cathedral a couple of years before the nestbox was available and it was only when a pair began hanging around and nest prospecting on the cathedral that the idea of a nestbox was muted. In all likelihood, the birds would have nested on the cathedral or one of the high rise blocks without any assistance as they have done in other cities. The sad truth is that peregrines are moving into cities due to persecution in the wild. In Derbyshire, for instance, where peregrines should be commonplace, they hardly have a toe hold as the minute they nest they are shot or poisoned and persecuted by gamekeepers and landowners; the chicks are stolen to sell on the illegal market to falconers and so all round, they get a bad deal. By moving into cities, they have found that they can live and breed without any interference or persecution, it’s just natural selection. Installing a nestbox simply was a means of stage managing where they bred on the cathedral so that a camera could be installed to monitor their lifecycle and gain valuable scientific data.

          Unfortunately, city peregrines are despised by the pigeon fanciers, like yourself, and in the countryside they are despised by the gamekeepers who think they take grouse and are happy for them to be in the city. So who has the most important case? Do we just eradicate peregrines from the UK and have done with it? There have been many, many comments sent to us from pigeon fanciers saying the peregrines belong in the wild, not the towns and I think if they really believe this, it would be more beneficial if the pigeon association could join forces with other naturalists and conservationists to petition to stop persecution of birds of prey in the countryside. Just last week, a gamekeeper was caught setting pole traps for hen harriers, an amazingly rare bird of prey in the UK, yet the landowner blamed it on the junior keeper who was then let off with a caution! Had the landowner been fined £10k it would soon send out a clear message!

          In terms of bats, yes it has been documented that peregrines occasionally take the larger species but I think the video footage from the cathedral is the first ever documented record so that is a very valuable piece of data. The damage that the occasional peregrine kill does to the bat population is totally insignificant compared to the damage wrought by man. Bats are not in a massive state of decline and therefore protected throughout Europe due to occasional kills by peregrine, they are protected due to massive damage by humans!

          As far as bats in the belfry goes, unfortunately, that is as much a myth and old wives tale as the saying ‘blind as a bat’. Bats are all crevice dwelling species and 90% of British bats live in houses less than 50yrs old! The bat that was brought to the nest was likely a Leisler’s bat and this species tends to roost in attic voids, clustered around the chimney stack, It could possibly have been a noctule bat, Britain’s largest bat and very similar to Leisler’s bat. Noctules roost entirely in trees and never in buildings but both species are big and fly high in open air space which makes them an easy target for the peregrine. For the record, I have studied bats in Wakefield for 30yrs and I have a level 4 (conservation and scientific) licence to handle bats which is the highest level licence achievable. Trust me when I say there are no bats in the cathedral’s belfry.

  2. Derek farrar says:

    Has one of the young ones fallen from the nest?

    • Francis Hickenbottom says:

      Interestingly, yours is the second question of this type today. I’ve just had a look and there are still four youngsters in the nest. They are hiding in the shade below the camera but parts of them are visible. The young males are now looking like the adult male, so they can be mistaken. The time to get really nervous will be towards the end of this week, when some of them could jump from the nest for the first time.

      • Derek farrar says:

        Great news. Im really attached to them now lol. Saw what looked like a kill swap bird to bird and something falling. Anyway alls well with my babys lol.

  3. Nick Canon says:

    Apart from man the peregrines other threat I believe is the Eagle Owl, which I believe a few have returned on their own steam from the European mainland ,and are breeding also a few that have escaped from captivity from in this country.
    What would be the policy if these eagle owls, became a threat to the peregrines also to the other birds of prey would they Cull. Or should they be allowed to breed as quite a few would like to see ,as some say it was a native species in this country at one time according to some but some dispute this claim

    • Nick Canon says:

      Thanks for your reply

    • John Gardner says:

      I’m with Francis on this one. If eagle owl comes, let ’em come. It would pretty spectacular seeing an eagle owl whip an unsuspecting peregrine off the spire at dusk! I think Francis is correct, the peregrines would have to look after themselves. For me, the plus point would be the amount of cats that an eagle owl would take, probably it’s main prey item in a city. Fewer cats would mean more songbirds and probably for once, pigeon and peregrine fanciers would rejoice together :¬)

  4. Nick Canon says:

    How long after will the peregrines chicks stay around the nest sight after fledging, and how long before they start to fend for themselves.Thanks

    • Francis Hickenbottom says:

      Parents will feed the young for a week or two yet but I can’t say for how long exactly. They will bring food to the nestbox or to other locations – the tower blocks are a favourite. Last year, the juvenile also hung around County Hall and the transmitter at the police headquarters. The adults will do some mid-air food passes, possibly of live prey, so the youngsters will gain experience of catching things and we will also see them starting to chase other birds. This will be a dangerous period for them because young peregrines make the mistake of flying at low level and they don’t have the skill to avoid collisions with buildings. It will not be a surprise if there is a casualty, as there was last year.

      As time goes by, their instinct to roam will take them away from the cathedral for increasingly long periods and they will disappear by the autumn.

  5. Nicola Milligan says:

    We’ve had a roost of Common Pipistrelle bats in our roofspace for several years. Last uear they were attacked by the wasps that had set up home in the wall cavity at the bats’ entrance hole. Most fled – numbers dropped overnight from 350 to 25. By that stage the huge bat numbers were pretty noisy and a peregrine had detected it as the local deli, and as dusk came he arrived and sat on the gutter to wait for opening hoirs.
    This year, numbers were back up to over 200-
    This week the racket drew the peregrine’s attention to the fact that the deli was open again.
    4.30 yesterday morning the bats were still out and acting oddly. And there he was onbthe satellite dish! Saw me and scarpered, but not far… 5 minutes later a pipistrelle was taken on the wing. It obviously got a shriek out – 200 wheeling bats trying to get back into the roost became none.
    Dusk count tonight was down to 5, and the bedroom is silent. Will they come back this year – given last year’s wasp experience – no.
    I just hope they find somewhere to roost and ha e their toung:(

    At least sleep problems have led to a couple of once in a lifetime experiences! We’d have wondered what had happened to the roost both times if i hadnt happened to be up and about pre dawn!

    In case interested – Northern Ireland

    • Francis Hickenbottom says:

      Nicola, I believe it is quite normal for numbers of roosting bats to vary quite markedly because they will have a number of places where they like to roost and they will change roosts according to conditions. I would be surprised to see a peregrine sitting on the gutter of a house and I think it much more likely that a local sparrowhawk has spotted the bats. A picture would be useful. We were pleased to get video of our peregrines with a bat because it is behaviour that we have heard of but it is hard to find video confirming it.

      Thank you for sending your observation.

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