The Peregrines of the Cathedral

It is at the top of the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule that, for the very first time in ornithologist memory, a pair of Peregrine Falcons have nested in Brussels. It was in 2004. And it was also the first time that a couple of Peregrines nested in town in Belgium. For the record, the Peregrines completely ceased nesting in Belgium (and almost all of Europe) during the second half of the sixties. In 1994, they returned to the country, first to the Meuse valley.

Every spring between 2004 and 2018, juvenile falcons fledged from the top of the north tower of the thousand-year-old cathedral. But in the spring of 2019, the nesting female, who arrived at the cathedral in 2006, was found lost in the heart of Brussels. She dislocated her wing under unknown circumstances. Despite the efforts of a specialist veterinarian who spared no effort, she never regained the ability to fly. She has therefore been in a "rest home" in a hospital for wild birds for 3 years.

The place being vacant, a new female, but also - very surprisingly - a new male, took direct possession of the balcony of the cathedral and therefore of the territory of the center of Brussels. Both partners are banded. He was born at the top of the Saint Guidon collegiate church in Anderlecht in April 2017. She was born in the spring of 2016, on a cooling tower at the Frimmersdorf thermal power plant, a few km west of Cologne, Germany.

It could have been simple, the new couple could have nested directly, but it was not the case! Surprise, a second female also came and claimed the place. There were many fights. This female is in fact a hybrid escaped from captivity as shown by her ring. Most likely she's a crossbreed obtained by artificial insemination, between a Peregrine Falcon and a Gyrfalcon. Still, the Peregrines did not nest at the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule in 2019.

The same pair is back in the spring of 2020, while the hybrid female has disappeared. Phew! The couple nest for the first time but lose their two falcon chicks when they are less than a week old. It is likely that this failure is related to the behavior of the female, which never brooded before. She was indeed very unmotherly, leaving her little chicks alone when they absolutely had to be kept warm.

In spring 2021, new surprise, the same couple is present, but chose not to nest on the "historic" balcony! No way to observe the nesting period thanks to the camera system. Despite many hours of research and observation, we will never discover where they nested. At the beginning of June, a barely fledged falcon, with typically still a little down on the top of the head, calls its parents from the top of the cathedral. Nesting has thus been successful!

Spring 2022, here we are. The couple, the same couple as since 2019, returned to nest on the balcony. New (good) surprise! Since March 14, male and female take turns on their two eggs. The hatching should therefore begin around April 14, next Thursday. Patience!

Video 1 April 1, 2022, it snows in Brussels, the female incubates her 2 eggs.

Video 2 The male brooded all afternoon. The female comes to incubate the eggs.

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