BOLTON’S pair of Peregrine Falcons are welcoming a new addition after fledging a chick.

The birds of prey have become a familiar sight over the town centre in the past few years after taking up residence in an old raven’s nest at the top of Bolton Town Hall.

It is believed the chick is a female, judging by its size.

Judith Smith, of the Manchester Raptor Group, which is responsible for the conservation interests of raptors, including owls, peregrines and ravens, said: “Observations throughout the breeding season suggested that the pair may have initially attempted to breed at the Parish Church, where they spend most of their time outside the breeding season.

“This might have been because of the major restoration work ongoing at the facade of the Town Hall entrance.”

Peregrines were at a low point in the 1960s due to human persecution and the impact of pesticides in the food chain.

Improved legislation and protection has helped the birds to recover and they have now expanded into many urban areas.

Large and powerful, peregrines falcons have a wingspan of around 95 to 115cm and there are thought to be just 1,500 breeding pairs in the UK.

They are renowned for their speed, reaching over 320 km/h (200 mph) during their characteristic dives.

Peregrine falcons first nested in Victoria Square in 2008 with the male of the current pair thought to have hatched in 2011 at a local quarry. As a chick he was fitted with a colour ring under licence, enabling his subsequent movements to be followed.

“The very high clock tower looks like a cliff to the birds, which is their natural habitat,” said Judith. “And there is a plentiful source of food in the feral pigeon.”

According to Judith the pair have now rejected the old raven’s nest and made their home on the south east corner of the clock tower, by the cupola.

“We think they were put off by all the work going on at the front of the Town Hall,” added Judith. “The cupola has four pinnacles and they’re nesting somewhere behind them so it is very difficult to see.

“But we did think they were up to something so we continued are observations and I went down there on the night of England’s semi-final as I knew it would be quiet and I could see the juvenile sitting on one of the pinnacles with the dad on the one diagonally opposite.

“We usually get more than one and had four last year but it is great news.”