Three wild Peregrine chicks stolen from a nest in Cheshire are thought to have been taken to supply the trade in illegal falconry birds. The disappearance of the chicks has led the RSPB to renew its appeal to the Government not to weaken laws on the keeping of birds of prey. Under the proposed changes, Peregrines kept in captivity would no longer need to be registered with government. The RSPB believes this will lead to more birds being taken from the wild by unscrupulous bird keepers.
In the Cheshire incident, the chicks were taken from a well-known nest site at Beeston Castle on 20th May. Six men with ropes and rucksacks were seen on the cliffs above the nest at around the time the chicks vanished. The chicks were well grown and there was no evidence of birds being trapped or killed, leading investigators to believe that they were taken for use in falconry.
Duncan McNiven, the RSPB's lead on bird registration, said: "The news that these chicks have been stolen is very upsetting and illustrates why we are so concerned that the law protecting these incredible birds be maintained. The bird registration scheme, in conjunction with DNA testing, allows stolen birds to be traced. These measures have a proven track record in reducing nest robberies and the laundering of wild birds into captivity to be sold for profit."
Defra is considering whether to prune the list of birds of prey covered by the scheme to just seven species. The proposed list would consist of: Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Goshawk, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier and Osprey. The Government will announce its decision soon.
Duncan McNiven said: "Peregrines have made a remarkable comeback from an all time low in the 1960s as a result of DDT poisoning, but they face a number of threats, including illegal killing and nest robberies. To remove the need for captive Peregrines to be registered would be to remove one of the main guarantees of their protection."
Anyone with information about the Beeston nest robbery, or about a blue Renault Clio seen near the scene with a registration beginning HT53, should contact PC Martin Findlow at Cheshire Police on 01244 614568, quoting incident number 884 of 20th May.
Captive Peregrines currently have to be licensed under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are included on Schedule 4 of the Act, which lists birds that must be registered and ringed if kept in captivity. As well as Peregrine, Red Kite, Hobby, Merlin and Hen Harrier could all be taken off the Schedule under the proposals before the Government.
Peregrines have been nesting at Beeston Castle since the early 1990s. The nest was robbed in 1992, leading to the formation of the Beeston Peregrine Watch group, which ran for many years. This was very successful and the nest site remained undisturbed until this year. Because of May’s theft, the watch group is likely to be reformed in time for next year’s breeding season.
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