You probably know the story of how Ernest Hemingway caught pigeons in the Jardin du Luxembourg on Paris’ Left Bank so that there was food to put on the dinner plates of his wife and children? But this, what I am going to write here now, is not about pigeons, although I must say that […]
You probably know the story of how Ernest Hemingway caught pigeons in the Jardin du Luxembourg on Paris’ Left Bank so that there was food to put on the dinner plates of his wife and children?
But this, what I am going to write here now, is not about pigeons, although I must say that pigeon is a great (and expensive) delicacy here in France. Stir-fried, stewed, roasted, skewered – they are on restaurant menus during the hunting season which is the only time of the year that game is allowed to be sold here. (Yes, pigeon is classified as game.) Must just say that never have I been able to eat pigeon and the reason is that I think that there is enough food in the world for us to eat so that we do not have to shoot pigeons to put in our pots. Ditto as far as quail is concerned: when I see that little bird’s tiny wings disappear into some brute’s mouth I can scream.
This is about falcons – Paris’ falcons. And yes, what do you know, there are falcons nesting under the roofs of Paris?
The story is that, as we – I am now speaking of Parisians – have invaded their space, having built our big buildings on the dunes and marshland and in the woods and valleys that were their natural habitat, they have had no choice but to find somewhere else to live, to become city dwellers. Or might it not just be that, once we’d become acquainted, they’d become accustomed to our faces and felt lonely and lost without us and the noises we made – cell (mobile) phones ringing, vehicle engines revving up, TV blaring away even at night, and not to mention the noise that we call music these days – and had come running, or rather flying, after us?
Paris’ falcons are kestrels – falco tinnunculus. They are birds of prey, of course. I therefore presume that they are giving Paris’ rodent inhabitants a very hard life.
There is an ornithological center – CORIF – that’s monitoring Paris’ kestrels. It had started to do so in 1986 and in the 1990s noticed that the city’s kestrel community had suddenly started to increase in numbers. In 2005 it was monitoring 29 kestrel couples. Apparently kestrels form life-long opposite-sex relationships and remain faithful. This is more than can be said of France’s politicians, sadly.
Corif says that there are now about 50 breeding kestrel couples in Paris.
Where are they?
With patience and a good camera you will be able to snap them nesting on the Arc de Triomphe monument, under the armpits or in the boots of its statues; between the columns and pillars of the Château de Vincennes, and on the Notre Dame Cathedral. And if you are in Paris on the weekend of 18/19 June, you will be able to watch the nesting falcons through telescopes CORIF will be setting up at the Arc de Triomphe, Vincennes Castle and behind Notre Dame Cathedral on Jean XXIII Square where there will also be an information stand.
There are babies in the nests (kestrel babies that is). Two were hatched in a nest at Vincennes Castle. They are now four weeks old and one, as you will see on the picture, is rather poorly. Maybe he can’t stand French pop music and has ear ache or a headache – and who will blame him? Or might he have stomach ache because Paris’ rodents are too garlicky? The two baby kestrels have their own blog which you will find here. The photo of them here comes from that site.