This young falcon is a slow learner

Peregrine falcon.
Peregrine falcon.
Share this article

RSPB staff at Chichester cathedral’s peregrine watch are a bit anxious about one of this year’s four youngsters. All of the eyasses have flown all right. It’s just that one of two females is not really as good as she needs to be. She does not land quite as well as she ought to be landing.

She misses the food parcel drop when dad brings back a pigeon. She cannot quite cope with all that fluttering wind round the bell tower where the family have been sheltering from the windy weather and the rain.

It is all a bit much for her and she hangs round like someone frightened to take the plunge into the swimming pool on a school swimming lesson.

The other three juveniles - her sister and two brothers - are coping with that dangerous world of hard stone walls and ferocious air current that can be almost as hard as water.

Slow learner seems to be like a former female a few years ago who never quite worked out the complexities of being the world’s top predator.

She was found dead a year into her new life under power cables. Then there was a juvenile male two years ago who did not want to leave the family home but was allowed to remain in the vicinity but not the cathedral, for up to a year.

I saw him once or twice being escorted by Dad away to his roost on the water tower at Graylingwell on the north-east outskirts of the city.

Slow learner will eventually be taken down to the seaside, ie Pagham Harbour or Chichester Harbour where she will have to start climbing that steep learning curve.

The parents, who are getting near to retirement age, having reared 38 children, know all the tricks of teaching which include letting the kids learn for themselves.

Or you starve. Wounding prey is one of these tricks, making the youngsters learn how to deal with flying food instead of simply giving it to them ready plucked and dead as something off the supermarket shelves.

Dad often resorts to flying with a meat parcel through the base of the spire, giving the youngsters a lesson in close formation. They have to avoid hitting the pillars through which he has passed. They either learn that trick or they will soon be hitting power cables.

With their eyeballs four times bigger than ours, relative to body mass, the peregrines are supremely adapted to living at the very pinnacle of flying ability.

This ability has to be used for hours every day of their lives, and there is no room for just one mistake. And there is another thing - their world is on the verge of becoming crowded with peregrines, so natural selection gives Slow Learner one more problem even her skilful parents have had to face.