Peregrine eggs taken from three nest sites in Peak District

From the BBC News website (16 June 2020)

Peregrine falcon eggs taken from three sites in Peak District

Eggs from peregrine falcon nests at three different sites in the Peak District were taken in early spring, Derbyshire Police has revealed.

The force said there could be a number of individuals or groups responsible as part of a “black market trade”.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said the eggs may have been removed while volunteers – who patrol the White Peak area – were forced into lockdown in late March.

[Photo by Barb Baldinger]

Rural crime officer PC Karl Webster said the eggs would be worth a lot.

“We believe they’re taking them to hatch,” he said.

“There’s a lucrative Middle Eastern falconry market allied to this country, an investigation two to three years ago confirmed that.”

The birds of prey, which were heavily persecuted in the 1960s and suffered from the impact of pesticides, have recovered in numbers in recent years.

However, they are still illegally killed and targeted for their eggs and chicks, according to the RSPB.

David Savage, from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said the taking of eggs was “sickening”.

“We began the season with great hopes and tried to keep an eye on them as much as we could, but unfortunately when we couldn’t watch them 24 hours a day, they were taken,” he said.

“It has been difficult to monitor the site in lockdown – the end of March and early April was when our volunteers were indoors.”

In May, the RSPB said it had been “overrun” by reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since the lockdown across the UK.


Original article on BBC website here

UPDATE 7th November 2020: Man charged in relation to alleged theft of peregrine eggs in Derbyshire Peak District (here)

UPDATE 17th November 2020: Derbyshire man due in court in February for alleged theft of peregrine eggs in Peak District (here)

UPDATE 20th February 2021: Trial date set as man pleads not guilty to theft of peregrine eggs in Peak District (here)

UPDATE 26th May 2022: Derbyshire Police criticised as prosecution collapses against alleged peregrine egg thief in Peak District National Park (here)

23 thoughts on “Peregrine eggs taken from three nest sites in Peak District”

  1. Sickening. this used to be more prevalent before routine DNA testing of suspicious captive birds. In those days it was surprising how many of the sites targeted were on grouse moors ( I don’t know that these were) at the time there were suggestions that keepers were possibly looking the other way the day the eggs were removed.

  2. I posted a few years ago on here about how the price of female peregrine falcons have rocketed .The males aren’t worth as much maybe about £500 to £600 were as the females are going for around £6000.The thing is most all of the buyers want the female chicks as young as possible for artificial insemination so they can produce a hybrid falcon called a gyr/peregrine which is winning all the big money races in the middle east. This is probably how they have taken the eggs before they hatch.

    1. the market is now more saturated and legally produced female peregrines are now around £3000 or less. none of the breeders producing for export are going to risk selling birds that could be shown by dna tests to have dna that doesn’t trace back to their own birds.

      if any small breeder suddenly has lots more young to register you would hope DEFRA would spot this and target them for a check.

    2. Females are not going for £6000, more like £3000 for those known to be from good lines already in breeding projects. Arabs already own most of the bigger breeding establishments, so don’t need to buy in very many from outside their projects. These ridiculous claims people like yourself keep repeating will be partly responsible for opportunist criminals who think they might be able to make an easy profit.

      It is a fact that peregrine populations in the UK are at record levels, and ecologically speaking, way beyond saturation point. Prime nesting territories are all occupied, leading to many pairs nesting in less than prime sites which will make them more susceptible to failure for many different reasons, some of those reasons may well be misguided individuals. Stop promoting this nonsense, and you will reduce that risk.

      You mention artificial insemination. This is the most common method for breeding most raptors in captivity now. It has the advantage of enabling hybrids to be produced, and it also enables far greater success rates at breeding straight peregrines in greater numbers from a smaller number of adults which are legally held in breeding projects. Add to this the vast pool of knowledge, and success, built in the last decade with artificial incubation technology, there really is no need to plunder the wild populations. A small number of licenses for a very limited wild take, based on specific and well established global conservation principles does not constitute plundering. I would invite anyone who thinks this is some kind of free for all to go ahead and apply for one ; you will not have one granted…

      Anyone seriously involved knows that DNA testing will prove (or disprove) their legitimacy, so nobody but a fool (and sadly there have been the odd one) would touch a peregrine they suspect has been stolen from the wild.

      On a related note, are you aware of how many falconers are spending their personal time and resources assisting with rescue and return of pre fledging young raptors that find themselves grounded and in trouble. There are many I know of who are doing this, and have committed to using falconry techniques to rehabilitate those that have minor injuries preventing their immediate return to their nest sites.This is being done with the full knowledge and cooperation of all interested parties, including police, Natural England, RSPCA and other wildlife organizations. This, however, will not fit your narrative, so is “conveniently overlooked”.

      As usual. I will not return to discuss this because I find little point in doing so to closed minds. Anyone who is genuinely interested I would just suggest you do a little research, perhaps starting with some of the police wildlife officers in the Midlands, or perhaps even the BTO. It shouldn’t be difficult to find the evidence. I repeat what I have said in the past, falconers are not the enemy here, and historically have been quite the opposite. Again, research The Peregrine Fund.

      1. 2020 price list of a falcon breeding farm in England female Scottish peregrine £5000 to £8000 go have a look it’s there for everyone to view the place is called raptor propagation.

      2. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s a chemistry term, how is it scientifically possible for “saturation point” to be exceeded?

      3. It’s all well and good offering your expert-sounding opinions on these matters, but the fact remains that some eggs are still getting taken from the wild for whatever reason. It is a fact that there is a strong trade link with the Middle East too despite their own breeding programs. You are probably right that most falconers abhor the idea of egg taking the same as most of the general public abhors crime in general, but that doesn’t stop there being criminals. As painful as it is for the falconry world, it has to be acknowledged that there are villains within it and the more that can be done to drive them out the better.

    1. Or maybe there were many travelling crooks? Or it could equally be someone local? It does take a little effort to locate a peregrine nest early in the season, so someone with a bit of knowhow (local or travelling criminal?). Of course Dave knows as well as I and most readers here know about how these bar stewards operate.

  3. Sorry Ed but did you receive my post ? I can understand if you did but didn’t show it on the blog.Just really annoyed,sorry.

    [Ed: Hi, no, can’t see another comment from you. It may have gone in to spam folder, which doesn’t get checked, just automatically deleted. Please try to re-send, thanks]

  4. This not new. Around 15 years ago I remember two Peregrine Falcon nests in particular being being left alone due to the “perks” game keepers and their co-conspirators received from their sale. I haven’t been in that part of the Uplands for a few years now so whether it is still happening in that area I have no idea. Hard to see them passing up money liker though, given their attitude to all birds of prey

  5. It is beyong belief, it really is. When I worked in the Peak District as species protection warden then there were two attempts to get to the nest, both on occasions when the culprits had wrongly believed we were off shopping or something, but we were in fact keeping a 24 hour watch. Neiher culprits were charged.
    Three nests robbed in the area this season is serious. And why have the police waited so long when they could have appealed for information weeks ago? Maybe they have used all this time to ask English Nature if anyone was licenced to take eggs? Shoddy job from the side of the police, now anyone who might have witnessed people or vehicles might not be able to recall who or where.
    Oh, and lest I forget, there was a certain gamekeeper who worked the same valley as I did who seemed to guard the peregrines, but was eventually done for stealing goshawk eggs. Like George M (above) I feel little / nothing has changed. The old criminal have passed away, only to be replaced by a new batch.

  6. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the greedy, thieving sods had left the birds at least one egg to incubate, so ensuring that what might have been lost in quantity was made up for in quality. Looks as though we’re turning the clock back 20+ years to when this practice was rife.
    By the way, has anyone heard whether those falconers got their wild Peregrines under NE licences. If so, any idea where they got them from. Presumably NE will be required to report on this in due course.

  7. Since the falconry trade and captive breeding is unregulated, it is hardly surprising that clutches are laundered through breeding facilities that are not subject to DNA testing.
    Where there’s eggs there’s brass !
    The only bright side is the robust health of the UK Peregrine population. Even with the declines seen in some localities through ongoing persecution and probable oversaturation of breeding pairs under conditions of declining prey, the species has recovered from critically low levels in the 1970’s to massive recovery.
    This is something that we never really considered possible after pesticides had wiped them out in the 1950’s / 60’s.
    With luck some 2 thousand chicks will fledge this year and most years in UK and Ireland and of course maybe 75 % will die before reaching breeding age anyway, with natural mortality rates being high in raptors.
    Losses of any clutches is sickening to all of us who have helped bring them back from the brink, but it is insignificant at a population level.
    The blindingly obvious cure is DNA testing and suitable regulation of a lucrative captive breeding trade.
    Will that happen anytime soon ? – only if pressure is applied.
    The idea that lockdown has been any deterrent to this and widespread raptor killing is, sadly, laughable.

    It has facilitated it.

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. Sennen Botallack, I heartily concur with your idea of DNA testing for peregrines particularly, but all birds of prey would benefit. It is time to stop the trade of eggs to Saudi Arabia though!

  9. Yet again, the UK government appears to be found wanting in legislation to protect our own indigenous wildlife.

    Mandatory DNA testing, and registration of all birds bred in captivity isn’t exactly difficult – this coupled with mandatory testing of any bird offered for sale or export would make it very difficult for these criminals to operate.

    Whilst there are custodial sentences for the unlawful possession of wild bird eggs – the current maximum sentence of 6 months perhaps isn’t sufficient deterrent for those who operative in the lucrative illegal wildlife market trade?

    If as some posts have indicated female chicks are valued at around £3000- if the criminal managed to hatch 6 female chicks from stolen eggs then that would have a value of around £18,000.
    Non, domestic burglary sentencing guidelines indicate a maximum sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment. Why should those who “burgle our wildlife” not face similar sentences?

    With the difficulties involved in investigating wildlife crimes, then there has to be some deterrence in the law, to compensate for the reduced chance of actually getting caught.

    Risk assessments are based on probability of an event happening, and consequences of that event.
    In order to increase the risk to offenders, then when the probability of getting caught are low, the consequences of getting caught have to be high in order for the legislation to have some actual meaning, and deter “would be offenders”.

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