A final nesting place for Farah the famous falcon


A FAMOUS falcon which made bird-breeding history some 40 years ago found its final nesting place in the Natural History Museum yesterday.

Farah the saker falcon was taken from a nest outside Tehran, Iran in 1967 and was given to Irish falconer John Morris. She was named after the Shah of Persia’s wife.

She rose to fame almost immediately when she perched on actor David Hemmings’s hand in the 1969 film Alfred the Great. However, her greatest claim to fame came in Galway in 1971 when she laid the two first hybrid falcons eggs ever bred.

She was reunited with one of these offspring yesterday which has been housed in the so-called “dead zoo” museum since the 1970s.

The breeding feat came at a time when falcons faced extinction and birds of prey were considered almost impossible to breed in captivity.“They were always considered very difficult if not impossible to breed in captivity,” conservationist and falconer Robert Hutchinson said yesterday.

The suggestion of cross-breeding with Farah came from falconer Ronald Stevens in 1971. He had been trying to breed Irish peregrine falcons in Co Galway for 12 years but they had only laid infertile eggs which never hatched.

“He suggested we put Farah in and I thought he was a bit nuts as she was a different species, like crossing a blackbird and a thrush, but lo and behold she did,” said Mr Morris. The discovery that two different types of the birds could mate has helped to conserve birds of prey, Mr Hutchinson said.

Donating the falcon to the museum “is a way of making yourself immortal”, Mr Morris said.

The specimen was “a very fine piece of taxidermy with a very interesting history”, said museum keeper Nigel Monaghan. Farah will not be on display immediately as she needs some conservation work, he said.

However she will go on display “in due course” on the ground floor which is dedicated to Irish animals, Mr Monaghan said .

The museum reopened in April after it closed for three years when a stone staircase collapsed.