Peregrine falcons are breeding in London

Peregrine falcons are breeding in the centre of London for the first time as the numbers of the world's fastest avian predator reach record levels in Britain.

Peregrine falcons are breeding in the centre of London for the first time as the numbers of the world's fastest avian predator reach record levels in Britain.

Until recently, peregrines had never been seen in lowland Britain. Now numbers have risen from a low of 360 breeding pairs in 1963 to nearly 2,000.

The birds - killed in large numbers during the Second World War because of the perceived danger to carrier pigeons - were known to inhabit only four lowland sites until recently. Now they have 40 homes, including London, Brighton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Exeter and Portsmouth.

All the sites are man-made - the birds will not nest in trees - with pylons being their favourite haunt, according to Nick Dixon of the Hawk and Owl Trust. They have also made their homes on steelworks, bridges, radio masts, a breakwater, a dockside wall and a church.

One pair has been breeding on a block of flats called Sussex Heights for three years. Chris Mead, a leading ornithologist, said yesterday: "Last Thursday I was having a coffee beside St Martin-in-the-Fields in London and heard a peregrine call and my wife saw it."

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