Endangered falcons successfuly breed on Poolbeg towers

Peregrine chicks take first flights as number of breeding pairs in Ireland rises

'Quill to Power' is a short documentary directed by Alan Caulfield which features the pair of endangered peregrine falcons that are nesting on the Poolbeg chimneys in Dublin.


A pair of endangered peregrine falcons that are nesting on the Poolbeg chimneys in Dublin have successfully hatched two chicks.

The number of peregrine falcons, which faced extinction in the 1950s and 1960s, has increased in recent years mainly due to the availability of nesting sites in high-rise structures such as at Poolbeg. It is estimated that there are now about 400 of the birds breeding north and south of the border.

The presence of the falcons has forced the ESB to cap the landmarks to prevent any further water damage to the structures and to ensure the safety of the birds.

Construction has begun on the larger chimney with work expected to begin on the second in November, outside the falcons’ traditional breeding season.

The chicks are nested about a third of the way up the thinner of the chimneys and have already taken their first flight.

Peregrines are said to be one of the fastest creatures on earth, reaching speeds of up to 320kmh. The have with long, pointed wings and a short tail, which allows them to reach such speeds.

“They go very high in the air and dive from the heavens down on prey below them. They form this beautiful teardrop shape and are incredibly aerodynamic,” said Hilary White of the Irish Hawking Club.


Notable eyesight

Their eyesight is also notable as peregrines can see 60 images per second, which allows them to proactively react to prey they might spot below them. The human eye can only see about 20 images per second.

“The world moves a bit slower for them. It allows them to react when they’re diving at these incredible speeds,” Mr White said.

Peregrine falcon chicks have a naturally high mortality rate, at roughly 75 per cent, but local birdwatchers are hopeful the chicks will survive.

“One of the things that I love about this particular pair is that they’re in the city, they’re close to where I live,” said local birdwatcher Eamonn Ryan. “Normally you have to go to places that are inaccessible or hard to get to, then you might see the birds or you might not”.

A short film examining the relationship the parent falcons have with the chimneys was uploaded to Youtube in April. It also examines the place the chimneys have in Dublin’s skyline.

Both the chimneys and accompanying power station were decommissioned in 2010. Hundreds of pigeons currently live in the power station, giving the predator falcons an easy catch come dinner time.

Contentious issue

Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said Poolbeg was one of the most contentious issues he’d seen since taking office 20 years ago.

“I think the people of Dublin want to see them (the towers) saved. This is one of the most splendid parts of Dublin. We have the Liffey on one side, the sea on the other and we’ve the Irishtown Nature Park too,” he said.

Mr Lacey thinks that if the chimneys were in any other country in the world they would be developed and enhanced for recreational and tourist activities.

“There’s a rich industrial history in this area which isn’t celebrated at all and I think the chimneys could be a centrepiece of an industrial museum. This area is worth preserving and worth enhancing for the people of Dublin,” he added.