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Nine falcons hatch in nests on Brussels’ tallest buildings

15:09 29/04/2023

Brussels has welcomed at least nine new residents this week with the hatching of several falcon eggs across the city.

Nests have been found on some of the city’s highest buildings, including the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula, according to the organisation Falcons for All.

A map of the falcon nests, along with live camera feeds of their new occupants, can be viewed online, with information available in English.

“In Brussels, spring is announced not by the arrival of the swallows, but when the peregrine falcons start incubating their eggs on the city's tallest buildings,” the organisation said.

“Spring 2023 is well and truly here: 12 pairs of peregrine falcons (or maybe even more) are currently incubating across the capital.”

A nest at the ULB Solbosch campus saw five peregrine falcons hatch, which Falcons for All notes as extraordinary considering the difficulty of keeping so many eggs warm at once.

“Male and female peregrine falcons discreetly alternate as they each take turns keeping the eggs warm,” the organisation explained.

“Incubation – or hatching the eggs – takes about 32 days, until the tiny chicks appear in immaculate white down. Six weeks later, they fly out.

"At that point, the young falcons drop into the void – from a height of several dozen metres – to join their parents in the skies of Brussels. In the meantime, the falcon chicks will grow remarkably from 35g to 1kg (at least in the case of the females).”

Males weigh less, at about 700g.

Saint Jacob's Church in Uccle has also welcomed new chicks. Three of the four eggs laid by the female of the new pair living there have already hatched and the last one is expected to arrive soon.

“This spring, we will once again offer you the opportunity to observe together – thanks to HD cameras placed very close to the nests – the details, the intimacy and the natural course of the nesting season of these extraordinary birds,” said Falcons for All.

“The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world. It is capable of chasing prey in diving flight at a speed of almost 400 km/h, faster than a Formula 1 race car.

"And clearly, the peregrine falcon is not content with this dizzying speed alone: they adjust the trajectory of their flight to match that of their prey, only to grab it - in an incredible manoeuvre.”

The organisation also drew attention to the fact that peregrine falcons were nearly wiped out in Europe and North America in the second half of the 20th century because of the poisoning of food chains by DDT, a pesticide developed for agriculture.

In Belgium, no peregrine falcons were born between the late 1960s and 1996.

But Falcons for All said that “a European directive entirely dedicated to the protection of wild birds – together with the energy of dozens, hundreds, thousands of ornithologists, naturalists, legal scholars, police officers and conservationists – managed to turn the tide and now, the peregrine falcons have returned”.

Written by Helen Lyons