Belfast Telegraph

Fledgling falcon's fantastic flight

Bushed baby peregrine returned to owner after epic 100-mile jaunt

BY LINDA STEWART

AN exhausted young peregrine falcon has been returned to her owner after flying more than 100 miles and ending up in the Sperrins.

The captive-bred bird of prey (right) escaped from her owner in Letterkenny and flew all the way to Belfast – before turning round and ending up in Draperstown in Co Londonderry.

At only 10 weeks old, Shadow was too young to be able to hunt for food. She was exhausted, starving and unable to travel any further when she was found sheltering on the roof of the Back Row Recreation Centre in Draperstown. The hungry raptor was captured in a butterfly net by Malachy McGuigan and Stephanie Baine, landscape officer with the Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership, and brought to safety with the help of Talnotry Avian Care Trust (TACT) Wildlife Rescue Centre in Crumlin, Co Antrim.

Stephanie said: "She was on the roof looking really exhausted and in desperate need of help. We were able to capture her without too much difficulty."

The bird had an identifying ring and staff contacted her owner Liam Conaghan, who lost Shadow when she had made off on a training flight.

A relieved and delighted Liam said: "I can't believe Shadow was found alive."

The peregrine had been spotted in Belfast two days earlier but had evaded capture.

Debbie Nelson of TACT added: "It was lucky that Stephanie had handled birds like this before. I am not sure it would have survived much longer in the wild."

FACTFILE

* The peregrine falcon is one of Northern Ireland's seven species of raptors.

* The size of a crow, adults have a blue-grey back, barred white under-parts, a black head and black moustache.

* Renowned for its speed, peregrines reach more than 200mph during their characteristic hunting dives.

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