Wing and a preyer: Salisbury Cathedral’s star falcon flies nest to Guernsey

A young male peregrine falcon that hatched at Salisbury Cathedral two years ago and became an internet star during the early days of the first Covid lockdown has spread his wings and reached the island of Guernsey, more than 100 miles away.

Osmund, the only male of four chicks raised on the cathedral tower in spring 2020, was spotted on the coast of the Channel island and identified by his blue ring bearing the initials YK.

According to the wildlife charity the RSPB, peregrines usually stay within 60 miles of their birthplace, so Osmund has proved to be something of an adventurer.

Salisbury Cathedral said he was probably searching for his own territory and a mate. He is in his full adult plumage and ready to breed. Some peregrines do mate in the first year but most start breeding as two-year-olds.

Ed Drewitt of the British Trust for Ornithology, who ringed Osmund, said: “Some Cornish peregrines have reached the French coast. However, I don’t know of any other birds, particularly from this area, flying to the Channel Islands.”

Osmund was the first of the 2020 chicks to fledge – develop wing feathers large enough to fly. He was named after St Osmund, the first bishop of Salisbury, who built the original cathedral at Old Sarum, two miles north of the modern city.

His three female siblings were named after individuals who played a significant role in the cathedral’s early history: Ela, Katherine and Honor, to mark the 800th anniversary of the building’s foundation.

Seven hundred people took part in the public vote after the peregrine webcam became one of the unusual sources of joy and succour people turned to at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Only two other peregrines have been spotted since fledging from the cathedral tower.

Peter, who hatched in 2014, was shot near Stockbridge, Hampshire, in March 2017 and nursed for more than two months by the Hawk Conservancy Trust before being released back into the wild. He has since been nesting with his mate in a Hampshire quarry and has fledged his own chicks.

The other peregrine spotted away from home was Aveline, a female that fledged in 2016 and was spotted in a Milton Keynes nature reserve in January 2017.

More than half of the peregrines that fledge annually do not survive their first year and, despite being protected by law, are still persecuted.

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