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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Peregrine falcons pull in tourists
Peregrine falcon
Visitors can watch three young peregrines at the site
Birdwatchers are being encouraged to help thwart poisoners from killing a family of rare peregrine falcons in Devon.

Thousands of people have already visited Plym Bridge woods, near Plymouth, to see the young falcons.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is encouraging visitors because attempts to poison the rare birds have been made in the past.

However, it is hoped the huge numbers of enthusiasts who come to see the birds will prevent poisoners from targeting the site.

Dedicated volunteers mounted a round-the-clock watch on the site, security cameras were installed and - as a result - three young peregrines were reared.

Peregrine falcons
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world and reach speeds of 180 mph
Peregrines breed mainly around the coastal cliffs of the north and west of Britain
In early April, up to four eggs are laid
Chicks begin to leave their nest from mid-June
Female birds are larger than the male
Peregrines catch their prey on the wing

The National Trust, which loans telescopes and binoculars to visitors, estimates 3,000 people have taken the chance to peer at the falcons.

Peregrine falcons became extremely rare during the 1950s and 60s when the population declined to just 360 pairs.

The UK population is now numbered at 1,300 pairs.

In the last three years, the RSPB believe there have been a dozen attempts to poison or kill peregrines in south-west England.

In October 1999, a pigeon carcass dosed with agricultural pesticide was discovered and in 2000 a female and one chick were killed by a poisoned bait and two other chicks from the same nest disappeared.


Click here to go to Devon
See also:

09 Jun 02 | N Ireland
04 Apr 02 | Wales
03 Jan 02 | England
13 Dec 01 | England
30 May 01 | UK
29 May 00 | Scotland
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