Suffolk police remove peregrine from falconer for return to the wild

On Friday, Suffolk Police’s wildlife crime team posted a photo on Twitter of a young tethered peregrine wearing falconry jesses. The photo was accompanied by a statement about how a multi-agency team had executed a search warrant at an unknown address and removed the peregrine with the intention of releasing it back to the wild.

No information was provided about the circumstances of how the falconer came to be in possession of a wild peregrine or whether the falconer would face charges for unlawful possession.

After a bit of digging it turns out that the young peregrine had hatched at a monitored site and had crash-landed in to a lake post-fledging. It had been rescued and sent to a wildlife hospital for assessment and rehabilitation.

Somehow (it’s not clear to me how) two falconers became involved and one of them took the peregrine, perhaps also with the intention of rehabilitation before release, but perhaps not. The falconer had removed the plastic colour ring from the peregrine’s leg (why would you do that if you intended to release the peregrine?) although the metal BTO leg ring was still in place on the other leg (as you can see from the photo).

Somebody obviously had concerns about the falconer’s intentions because a tip-off led to the multi-agency search led by Suffolk Police and assisted by Norfolk Constabulary, RSPB Investigations and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Search warrants aren’t usually granted without the police being able to show reasonable grounds to suspect a crime has been committed. The peregrine was seized, presumably to ensure it was returned to the wild.

Apparently the police dealt with the falconer by way of a community resolution order, probably because it would have been too difficult (virtually impossible) to prove criminal intent in this case.

Well done to the police and agencies involved in retrieving this peregrine and getting it back where it belongs.

UPDATE 14th December 2022: Stolen peregrine rehabbed and released back to the wild in Suffolk (here)

38 thoughts on “Suffolk police remove peregrine from falconer for return to the wild”

    1. You could argue that but falconers train birds to hunt all of the time, you don’t need to remove a leg ring to do that. The falconer could have trained the peregrine to hunt then release it, with both rings intact. Removing a ring is needless, unless you want to hide something and who is to say that the second ring wouldn’t have been removed at some point.

  1. Thank you to the person who provided the tip-off, and to all who managed to find the young peregrine. I wonder which wildlife hospital was involved?

  2. This wild casualty may have had its coloured leg ring removed for a purely practical reason. The photograph shows that leather Aylmeri anklets have been used which are deliberately made to be quite wide to accommodate the metal closing eylets which are of an appropriate size for the Alymeri / hawk concerned. There would likely have been insufficient space on the tarsus to accommodate both the Aylmeri and the coloured ring. It seems most likely that the BTO ring and the coloured ring were not fitted to the same tarsus for precisely the same reason. There are many instances each breeding season where responsible falconers are on record for the successful rehabilitation and release of many foundling hawks.

    1. Hawk is a generic term used by falconers , unless specifically referring to a species type , we have many many names for specific birds , falcon denotes a female peregrine, tiercel a male , hobby ,jack, etc

        1. its actually not tbh ,just in your misunderstanding of the context ,i can assure you if i spoke to many falconers ,austringers,sparviters or berkutchi worldwide in any language or even quite a few BTO and RSPB guys i know they would understand perfectly ,its a term thats been around for 4000 years :) ive yet to see a gamehawk that wasn’t a falcon

          1. I understand the context perfectly well.

            Archaic (incorrect) terminolgy aside, the species is classified under the genus Falco. It isn’t even in the same order as “hawks”, due to its different biological lineage.

      1. I’ve heard most of those falconry terms before but think if it is a wild bird then it should be referred to by it’s proper name. It’s like someone rescuing an injured Polecat but casually calling it a Ferret, it doesn’t seem right to me to stick it in the category of the “owned / bred / domesticated” just because it made a beginners mistake & crashed and needed the hand of human help. Just my gut feeling. It’s a minor point but does indicate the different angles that people look at this from.

        1. I agree completely. Or perhaps falconers (hawkers) would be happy referring to whales as fish? Or for that matter, cattle as horses? ;)

        2. Alastair is a falconer no doubt so its likely just force of habit and im sure no harm or disrespect intended actually if we want to be pedantic its Falco Peregrinus Peregringus (F.P.P ) ,male :) but im sure we all get that

          1. If you wish to be pedantic, as you put it, the specific should always begin with a lower case letter. Only the generic element of a binomial/trinomial is capitalized.

            1. Lol,I bet you’re fun at parties , I’m not sure if i should put an exclamation mark on the end of that but, hey ho , I’ve better things to concern me, like whether this female FPP will make it back ok tomorrow , fingers crossed , I’m sure you’ll wish me luck

              1. Oh I’m a regular caution! I just can’t stop myself piping up when some drunkard or other claims that a fly is a wasp, or a duck’s a thrush.

                P.S. For someone with better things to concern you, you seem to have spent a lot of time defending inaccuracies here.

                P.P.S. I do wish you luck. And applaud your efforts.

    2. Also:

      Metal BTO rings are usually fitted on the right leg, while colour rings are placed on the left. Their placement has nothing to do with jesses, or any other accessory.

      1. no but the large coloured bands interfere with the alymeri ( leather anklet)whatever leg they’re fitted on,and can cause abrasions to the tarsus if the bird is undergoing a lengthy rehab ,the metal nads rarely cause a problem

        1. I don’t doubt it.

          Nevertheless, Mr Henderson’s speculation regarding the ringing of this individual has no basis in reality. To suggest that the ringers involved omitted to fit a colour ring on the outside chance that the subject might find itself in captivity (for whatever reason) is simply ridiculous.

          1. he didn’t, he wasn’t accusing the ringers ,far from it ,he was speculating that the person with who the police engaged may have removed it as it was likely to interfere with the anklet and cause abrasion issues ,which in my experience it often does ,the metal ones dont ,i work with the BTO and place both on prior to release unless it arrives already banded in which case we will often remove the plastic one until later

            1. Note that I didn’t suggest that anyone was accusing ringers of anything.

              “There would likely have been insufficient space on the tarsus to accommodate both the Aylmeri and the coloured ring. It seems most likely that the BTO ring and the coloured ring were not fitted to the same tarsus for precisely the same reason.”

              The above plainly suggests that a colour ring was intentionally not fitted to the right leg, in order to leave space for the Aylmeri, when (as I’ve pointed out) colour rings are usually placed on the left. Therefore, any reference to available space is completely superfluous. The comment is a nonsense.

              1. Firstly Alastair isn’t the person in question so it’s speculation on his part , he may never have banded birds and know no differently , it may be the bird arrived like that or that it was taken off on receipt of the bird to allow for the anklet to be fitted without a potential issue , sadly I can’t post pics on here but pretty sure I’ve a number of banded peregrine pics with the coloured ring on the right leg ,maybe it’s a regional decision or a non decision at all , I’ll ask tomorrow as a friend is banding a female , I suggest he wasn’t paying that much attention to what he wrote and as to whether he meant individual legs just the fact that coloured bands can cause issues when an anklet is fitted

                1. “Firstly Alastair isn’t the person in question so it’s speculation on his part”

                  Which is exactly the point I made earlier. Do try to keep up.

                  “Nevertheless, Mr Henderson’s speculation regarding the ringing of this individual has no basis in reality”

                  I also previously stated that colour rings are “usually placed on the left”. Usually, not always.

  3. The coloured ring will have been removed as it would interfere with the anklet needed in order to train the bird to hunt and get fit . Something that is crucial ,Wild parents teach their youngsters through into late autumn , simply releasing the unfit, untrained bird ,a few weeks later whilst well intentioned is basically a death sentence, the mortality rate of young peregrines is high enough as it is . I hope this bird was rehomed with another experienced hunting falconer in order to learn these skills prior to conducting a controlled tame hack back to the wild at a suitable time , falconers including myself work with interested bodies to recover large numbers of these generally urban nest jumpers who often land in an environment where they are doomed unless rescued , if they are suffering underlying illnesses such as frounce they may require treatment which delays their return , myself and fellow falconers have returned a half dozen just this past month along with several others over a long period using falconry techniques to ensure their success, all recorded all registered and all in conjunction with interested parties ,the key here is to work openly with all the invested parties to ensure a mutual outcome , the oft repeated fallacy about ridiculous quoted prices of falcons and criminality needs to be exposed with facts , a male peregrine costs a couple of hundred pounds and is certainly not worth a criminal record, if this person had ulterior motives they could easily have removed the metal band , the fact they didn’t speaks volumes, my key concern here is that the bird hasn’t actually gone to a worse place !

    1. Well done Shaun, good to hear your good work, I think Peregrines have declined in Cumbria from the very few I see now to what there were a couple of decades ago, hope im wrong but only see a couple a year now.

      1. thanks you its a pleasure for sure ,i cant say about cumbria as i dont know the region well enough ,but nationally the peregrine is doing astoundingly well ,their ability to utilise urban environments has allowed them to spread their range and as the population has risen has led to pairs seeking out these sites ,of course a side effect of this is they rarely have the chance to make a mistake in their early flights ,and there are a lot more hazards to lead to their downfall. one site i deal with has a gulls nest on every roof top if the birds go to a roof the gulls will either kill them or drive them into traffic and death ,what is refreshing is that most sites have very attentive watchers these days and i work with them to ensure we are quickly able to lessen the dangers ,i will be returning a female tomorrow to a well know site with a camera, this will be the second time she has come a cropper ,she is one of more than half dozen we have dealt with this month

  4. Lots of politics at every stage of wildlife care ,heard how police use their selective experts to care, protect etc ot every one will be happy. I personally don’t like netting and rings on wild birds, that’s my personal opinion but the Uk allows so called experts to catchand release.
    Still remember a Dipper that turned up in my area , didn’t stay after being caught and ringed.

  5. I can only reiterate: ‘Well done to the police and agencies involved in retrieving this peregrine and getting it back where it belongs.’
    At least it is now, hopefully, safe to live its life as nature intended.
    And not the plaything for some amateur falconer.

    1. its my understanding the bird isnt back anywhere as yet ,the window of opportunity to do so has closed ,the bird will need a long and thorough rehab followed by a tame hack back to the wild, also there’s is nothing in the article to suggest that the person concerned is an amateur in any way ,looking at the equipment they evidently use good stuff which is usually a good indication of their views and approach ,very often these birds end up in exactly the wrong place and are released in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with minimal fitness, no skills, and death waiting ,but it looks good to joe public who is none the wiser about the requirements of an apex predator

    1. wild birds are taught by their parents to hunt maintain and retain the highest levels of fitness ,if you atch wild sites the parents still feed the youngsters into October, when raptors ,in particular ones that rely on their flight skills more than the more sedentary species come into captivity, a short period of inaction and fitness is lost and a lack of opportunity to learn these skills and the benefits of height speed approach and footing skills are missed ,a bird such as this released a month later, unfit with no parental guidance is as good as dead ,wild peregrine mortality even under parental tutelage is 60-75% before the next spring ,even worse in urban sites ,i end up recovering lots of such birds later in the year ,the falconer using techniques honed over thousands of years can teach the birds these skills and dramatically improve its chances of survival particularly during those formative months

      1. Thank you , I have really enjoyed reading your highly educative texts regarding the rehabilitation of these young and vulnerable birds . We Raptor lovers owe dedicated and skilled people such as you a great deal .

      2. Well done Shaun, for all the work you and a number of individuals do for rescuing and rehabilitating so many peregrines, and for the measured and sensible approach with your replies here.
        For the record, everything Shaun has done over recent years has been well documented, consulted upon and agreed with all relevant agencies, and most appropriately, tailored to the individual needs of the hawks in question every time. So in answer to the question, what does falconry achieve for the birds, clearly a great deal in many cases.
        This kind of work has been going on for many years, by a lot of falconers, largely quietly, unrecognised, and mostly at the personal expense of those people. It’s high time this fact is recognised and celebrated by the wider community.

  6. Praise is certainly appropriate for the sterling rehabilitative work quietly undertaken by the falconers as described by Shaun. However, the fact remains that someone deemed it appropriate to notify the authorities about the retention of this particular bird in captivity. It would be good to know the whole story. Maybe someone will enlighten us.

    1. Unfortunately , and as in this case ,there are usually legal reasons as to why that can’t or shouldn’t be done

  7. Sad to see this bird will be released without adequate training and rehab .. People need to really start learning about these beautiful birds & not follow the media & listen to the experts that live and breathe for these birds .. How do people think releasing this young bird with no parents or rehab will hunt ? A parent teaches its young to hunt for months after fledging for a reason .. Very sad to see this birds fate unravelling due to do gooders that know nothing ..

  8. As a veterinary surgeon – and a falconer I have treated, rehabilitated and released dozens of Peregrines (and other raptors) over the last decade. In combination with other falconers we have successfully returned at least 30 back to the wild over just the last 3 years.
    Some, if found early enough can simply be returned immediately to a safe position for the parents to continue looking after them. Others, especially if several of the same age are found can be released using a falconry technique called hacking where they are given an artificial nest site and fed from it whilst they learn to use their wings – and come back each day for food if they fail to hunt. Others need to be trained as falconry birds to give them a chance.
    70% of young Peregrines don’t survive. Despite given all the hunting lessons and chance to practice by their parents they still don’t make it. So how is a falcon that had never been taught to hunt, never got fit, never experienced how to handle the weather when flying expected to survive if reared in an aviary and simply let loose when deemed old enough?? The simple answer is they don’t! They starve to death. Instead why not give them a fighting chance? Like it or not, training them for falconry gives them the chance to get fit, learn how to fly and most importantly learn how to hunt. If they don’t catch something they get fed by the falconer and taken home safe and sound. This process continues until the falcon becomes proficient at hunting – THEN and ONLY THEN can it be released with any expectation it has a chance of surviving. And again believe it ir not, most falconers are responsible conservationists and love nothing better than seeing a falcon returned to the wild. Over the last year between my friends and I we have released 12 falcons that we trained for falconry, flew them until they were deemed successful and then released them – all after being banded and ringed by BTO so we can track their future endeavours. And the removal of the BTO band is not a conspiracy theory or sign of mal intent – it is simply they are so large and cumbersome that it’s impossible to put safe and comfortable equipment on them to allow training without their removal. They can easily be replaced though when release occurs – which is exactly what we do.
    Conservation only occurs if all sides talk and communicate. Falconers are not the bad guys, often they’re the only ones with the suitable skills to allow the successful release of such birds. With the best training in the world, by the parents, 70% die. What chance do they have with no training???? Falconry training gives them a chance.

    1. But when you boil it down does falconry not involve a human dominating a bird so that it behaves as the human wants purely for the human’s enjoyment? That’s why I was asking, what’s in it for the bird?

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