PEREGRINE falcons have been spotted again in Bolton — six years after a pair were first spied nesting in the clock tower at the town hall.

Two of the birds of prey have been seen on top of the bell tower at Bolton Parish Church, with evidence of them feasting on local game also found.

Cllr John Walsh, a warden at Bolton Parish Church, said he has seen the birds twice during the last four to five weeks.

Bolton Council said, unlike in previous years, there had been no sightings of falcons on the town hall.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the uplands of the north of England is a popular breeding ground for the bird, with their numbers having risen since the 1960s due to better legal protection.

Cllr Walsh said: “There is clear evidence that they have been feasting. We have found pigeon wings on the floor around the church.

“I have seen two, in the last four or five weeks, on top of the church tower “They don’t build a nest as such, they roost on top of the tower.

“We don’t have a problem with them. They certainly keep the pigeons down, which is no bad thing.

“I’ve not seen them for a week or 10 days now but I have seen evidence of carcasses in the last few days. Certainly it is clear that they have been roosting here part of the time, if not the whole of the time.”

After fighting with ravens in the skies to nest on the roof of Bolton Town Hall in 2008, the falcons returned each year until the civic building was renovated in 2011.

But in 2012 the protected species returned and, with the help of volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), hatched a new brood on the north side of the town hall.

The bird’s population was low in the 1960s, because of gamekeepers and landowners killing them and pesticides poisoning them, but better protection from both threats has allowed their number to flourish again.

In 2011, the RSPB’s population estimate for breeding pairs of falcons was just 1,402.

Peregrine Falcon Factfile

  • The Peregrine Falcon lives mostly along mountain ranges, river valleys, coastlines, and increasingly in cities.
  • It reaches faster speeds than any other animal on the planet when performing the stoop, which involves soaring to a great height and then diving steeply at speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph), hitting one wing of its prey so as not to harm itself on impact.
  • The air pressure from a 200 mph (320 km/h) dive could possibly damage a bird’s lungs, but small bony tubercles on a falcon’s nostrils guide the powerful airflow away from the nostrils.
  • To protect their eyes, the falcons use their nictitating membranes (third eyelids) to spread tears and clear debris.
  • The Peregrine Falcon feeds almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as pigeons and doves, waterfowl, songbirds, and waders.
  • The RSPB has estimated that there are 1,402 breeding pairs in the UK.
  • The Peregrine Falcon is the national animal of the United Arab Emirates.