Watch: Sheffield peregrine chicks hatch to bird-lovers' delight

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They are the well-honed killers of our skies, but that hasn't stopped Sheffield's bird-lovers getting all dewy-eyed over the latest brood of peregrine chicks.

Sheffield's majestic peregrine falcons have spent the last month incubating four eggs in their nest high above the city, on the University of Sheffield's St George's Church Lecture Theatre in Mappin Street.

The three peregrine chicks hatched between Friday and Sunday (University of Sheffield)

The three peregrine chicks hatched between Friday and Sunday (University of Sheffield)

Viewers have been glued to the university's webcam, where they watched the first hatchling emerge last Thursday (April 27), followed by its siblings on the following two days.

But the fourth egg has yet to hatch and the Sheffield Bird Study Group (SBSG), which has been monitoring their progress, believes this year's brood will be limited to three.

Experts says the birds' breeding patterns are remarkably predictable and in none of the last four years has there been a gap of more than two days between the first and last egg hatching.

"The parents will probably continue to incubate the egg as they brood the chicks, but it will gradually get pushed out as the chicks quickly grow over the next week, and eventually forgotten about. I would, however, be delighted to be proved wrong!" the group's blog states.

However, the three chicks which have hatched appear to be thriving.

"Fortunately the cold spell of the last couple of weeks turned just as the chicks began to hatch, and they look to have made a good start, being fed regularly and without any major scares in the shape of spills like the one noted last year," the blog adds.

David Wood, a professor at the university and SBSG chairman, said it was great to see the chicks being well-fed and looked after by their parents.

Viewers should enjoy the sight of the chicks while they can, as they may not stick around for long.

David estimates, based on previous years, that they will leave the nest on or around June 4.

Peregrines are large and powerful falcons, whose prey includes wading birds, pigeons and small ducks.

Britain's peregrine population was seriously threatened in the 60s, but their numbers have since grown and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) estimates there are now 1,500 active breeding pairs in the country.

David said he was delighted the webcam has proved so popular with birdwatchers, clocking up millions of views from fans in around 100 countries.

It is not just for entertainment, he points out, having been cited in academic papers and also helping to educate people about the threats to falcons and other birds.

"Thankfully peregrines are in a much better place than a couple of decades ago, but they still face some very serious threats in terms of illegal persecution by people stealing eggs or chicks," he added.