Hatching at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula!

At last! The first 2022 falcon chick hatched in the center of Brussels this afternoon.

We must admit that some concern was beginning to arise... The first egg was laid around 4:30 p.m. on March 12, while the second was laid during the night of March 14 to 15. Brooding began on the morning of the 14th. The incubation being 32 days, hatching was expected on April 14th, i.e., last Thursday. And today is Monday the 18th. The incubation therefore lasted 4 days longer than normal. This was also observed in Uccle. This would therefore not regard to the female but probably to the freezing temperatures that raged in Brussels at the beginning of April.

But the female Peregrine who arrived at the cathedral in the spring of 2018 has not shown great nesting success since. This spring, she laid only two eggs. In the vast majority of cases, the Peregrine lay 3 or 4 eggs. Two, it's really not common. However, when she first nested at the cathedral in the spring of 2020, she had laid 4 eggs, but only two falcons hatched and... both died after a few days. Careful observation of the female's behavior suggested that her maternal instinct was not particularly developed. She left the male to brood the falcons most of the time and sometimes, when it was her turn, she left the nest altogether, leaving her chicks to become dangerously cold. Ditto for feeding: it was the male who, most of the time, took care of feeding the falcon chicks.

Information on the nesting period of last spring is lacking. A couple has regularly been observed on the cathedral; the observation of their rings showed they were indeed the same Peregrines as in 2020. But, to nest, the female did not choose the balcony that was occupied by peregrine falcons since 2006. Incredible but true, the nest has never been located! And this despite hours of waiting. In the end, a young falcon, just fledged, was discovered on June 1 sitting on a gargoyle at the cathedral, begging for food from its parents. We therefore do not know the number of eggs laid or the exact number of falcons hatched and fledged. But it is likely that there was only one fledgling. It's already better than in 2020, but it's not incredible.

Should we complain, worry? A priori, no. The scientific study of wild bird populations shows that there are “good” breeders, less good ones and also very bad ones! This may be a consequence of the quality of the territory's biotope. But it can also be linked to the genetic quality of the parents or one of the parents. The important thing, the essential, is the evolution of the population as a whole. The observations that we have made in the 4 corners of Belgium, each spring since the return of the Peregrine in 1994, are positive! The population of Peregrine Falcons is dynamic!

Between 2006 and 2018, an exceptional female Peregrine Falcon nested at the cathedral. During this period, this female born in 2002 in Herdecke (Germany), just over 300 km from Brussels, laid 54 eggs, an average of 4.2 eggs per spring, and raised a total of 43 falcons, a nesting success of 79.6% in relation to the number of eggs laid. An incredible result! Birds are individuals. All parents, but all different!

How will the current female behave this spring? Will she carry out this new brood? She is now 6 years old and has gained experience since nest failure in 2020.

In the meantime, in the heart of Brussels, the pleasure of observing, understanding and discovering is intact! With the family of Saint Job church, where the chicks are now 4 days old, we now have two clutches under observation. A third is in sight because the Peregrine couple of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre has been incubating assiduously since March 27. Hatching is therefore expected for April 27 or … later!

Video 1: Surprise this afternoon when the male leaves the nest, a just-hatched falcon appears!

Video 2: The female immediately takes over from the male.

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