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Hatches, matches and dispatches at New Milton Water Tower

20th June 2019

Bournemouth Water’s third brood of peregrine falcon chicks have survived to fly the nest against the odds.

A pair of rare and protected peregrine falcons set up home on Bournemouth Water’s New Milton Water Tower in 2017.

Since then they have produced three broods of chicks – but disaster struck in April when the male peregrine falcon went missing shortly after his mate started incubating this year’s eggs.

At first it was feared that even if the eggs hatched successfully, the chicks would die as the female falcon struggled to both keep the chicks warm and hunt enough food for her and her brood.

But in May two eggs hatched, and both chicks – known as eyeasses – have survived. They are already nearly as big as their mother, and have started to venture out of the nesting box on their own. Last week they were ringed so they can be identified and soon they will fly the nest completely.

Saska McGrath, Bournemouth Water's National Environmental Programme and Climate Change Manager, said: “There have been more than a few anxious moments over the last couple of months. Many people have been willing the female falcon and her chicks to survive.  

“There aren’t that many recorded breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in Hampshire, so while we’re very sad that our adult male has gone missing it’s great news that two more chicks will join the peregrine population.”

Keith Betton, Chairman of the Hampshire Ornithological Society and Official Bird Recorder for Hampshire, first noticed a pair of peregrines on the tower in September 2016.

Keith and Joanna Hayward from New Milton Town Council contacted Bournemouth Water to see what could be done to assist the protected birds and encourage them to nest on the 30-metre high octagonal tower.   

Saska worked with Keith and Joanna to work out the best place to install a nesting box on the tower to encourage the peregrines to breed.

The water tower is still operational and it was decided to place a box in the turret to encourage the birds to nest in an undisturbed part of the tower. A nesting box was provided by Falconry Solutions and installed by Bournemouth Water in February 2017. To the delight of all involved the peregrines started using the box that April.  

In 2017 the pair produced three chicks, and returned in 2018 to hatch another three.

Keith said: “What an amazing female she is, rearing the chicks against all odds. We are sad that her partner has vanished. He was six years old. However, a new male has been turning up recently so hopefully our female will accept him as a partner.”

To observe the chicks by web cam go to:

Username:  water

Password:  wat3r 

Notes to Editors:

  • Peregrine falcons are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to intentionally take, injure or kill a peregrine, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young. It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds close to their nest during the breeding season. There are only 20 recorded breeding pairs (in 2018) of peregrine falcons (Falcon peregrines) in Hampshire and 1700 throughout the UK.
  • Incubation takes 29-32 days and is shared by both parents.
  • Brooding and feeding is carried out in the first two weeks by the female while the male hunts in the air to catch prey (often pigeons) sometimes travelling up to 200mph.
  • The chicks fledge after 35-42 days and are independent two months later.

For further information please contact:

Bournemouth Water