BOLTON’S peregrine falcons have successfully bred on Bolton Town Hall again this year.

The two birds first nested in Victoria Square in 2008, and have bred every year since, apart from in 2011 when the council carried out renovation work and last year when they produced just one egg that did not hatch.

Now the birds — a protected species — have returned again and hatched three chicks, now about three weeks old.

Their nest, provided by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is on the north side of the building and hidden from view from the ground.

A council spokesman confirmed the arrival of the new peregrines.

Bird recorder Judith Smith said: “There are three new chicks and they are probably about three weeks old.

“I think the parents are the same as last year.

“They are not ringed so we can’t be certain, but unless there has been an accident in the last year, we think they are the same birds.

“Occasionally they pop their heads over the ledge and I think the chicks will be big enough now to pop their heads over as well.

“The parent birds were quite angrywhen we went up and looked at them.”

The town hall is undergoing exterior renovation work and the job is being kept on the south side of the building until the chicks leave the nest.

The chicks must first be taught how to hunt and fend for themselves and Mrs Smith said only one in three-to-four peregrines survives because many do not acquire these skills.

Mrs Smith expects the chicks to go to Bolton Parish Church, where there have been sightings on the bell tower already this year.

“The church is not a suitable nesting site for the peregrines, though.”

Mrs Smith added: “They didn’t have any chicks last year, only an unhatched egg, owing to the unusually cold spring that we had.

“These birds are precious as we have problems with nesting sites at quarries around Bolton being targeted by egg collectors.

“The chicks have not yet been sexed.

“They will be checked by the BTO.

“The birds cannot be handled without a special licence.”

A council spokesman said: “We’ve had regular meetings with our building contractor ISG and Judith about the peregrine falcons, and the workers on site are very mindful of their presence.

“Our town hall refurbishment programme is still on track and we are currently working on the southern and eastern side of the building, repairing the roof, which does not disturb the chicks.

"The work has been planned in such a way so as not to disturb them.”