Peregrine Falcons & the law
In the UK Peregrine Falcons have been given full legal protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. This means that it is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a Peregrine. Nests and eggs are also protected and the Act makes it an offence to take, damage or destroy the nest of a wild bird while it is in use or being built or to take or destroy the eggs.
Peregrines are included in the list of species in Schedule 1 of the Act, which means that they are given more protection than other species. In effect, this means that higher penalties can be imposed by the courts. As a Schedule 1 species, Peregrines are also protected from intentional or reckless disturbance at their nest sites.
Internationally, Peregrines are also listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This is the highest level of protection given to any species and means that all commercial trade in the species is banned in all of the 170+ countries that have signed the Convention. This is the same level of protection given to tigers and Giant pandas and reflects the importance given to the species by the international community.
Peregrines have been victims of persecution and illegal trade for many years and this continues today, so legal protection is important. Peregrines are targeted by egg collectors and by those who take young birds from the nest to sell on the falconry market.
In London, the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit has dealt with a number of cases of crimes against Peregrines. In the 1990s a London bird keeper was convicted of illegally selling wild Peregrines, which he claimed had been bred in captivity. DNA analysis of blood samples taken from the young birds proved that they were not related to the birds that the seller claimed were their parents. Police in the UK have investigated many similar cases in recent years and DNA analysis has been used to secure convictions in a growing number of these.
The Metropolitan Police has also seized the eggs of Peregrine Falcons from egg collectors but, in London, Peregrines are more likely to be threatened by disturbance to their nest sites. These are usually high up on tall buildings and are vulnerable to disturbance by maintenance work. The Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit has published information and advice for the managers of buildings used as nest sites by Peregrines: Guidelines on urban nest sites and the law (152 KB PDF).
Legal protection has helped Peregrine falcon numbers to increase in recent years and the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit is working with nest monitors and building managers to protect peregrine falcons in London.