There can surely be no other bird that evokes more excitement in casual bird watchers than the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Hardened expert birders need a 'life tick', something brought to our shores by unique circumstances, to get the pulse racing but lead a party of of mere mortals along the cliffs at Durlston and watch the sheer delight and anticipation as a peregrine flashes by.
In a stoop down towards an unfortunate and unsuspecting pigeon the peregrine reaches astonishing speeds and is known to be the fastest bird in the list of British avifauna. Indeed, it has been estimated that when stooping in perfect conditions they can reach 200mph. How they survive impact with their prey at these sort of speeds is unfathomable and the poor bird they hit certainly will not survive but at least it is a quick end. Even in straight flight they travel at between 40 and 60mph!
Persecution brought the British peregrines to the verge of extinction back in the 1950's but subsequent protection has seen numbers increase and now they can be found nesting in city centres on high buildings where they hunt the local pigeon stocks. Away from the cities they are still not common but can be found in Dorset along the coastal cliffs where their favourite food, the pigeon, can also be found. It is this love of pigeons that has provoked calls from people who race homing pigeons for controls to be relaxed and to allow culling! At the risk of offending anyone I find that a pathetic stance.Peregrine Falcon: the ton-up boy