A European Goldfinch on the cathedral's falcon menu.

The Peregrine family of the cathedral has two falcon chicks. The other two eggs (including the particularly pale one) did not hatch. There is nothing abnormal about this result, especially with a young couple that is nesting for the first time. The two birds do not yet know each other well enough and are completely inexperienced with nesting.

In fact, did the two eggs not hatch because they were infertile? Were they "badly incubated" causing the death of the embryos inside? At this stage, it’s impossible to tell. After the nesting period, and thus after the little falcons will have fledged, it will probably be possible to go up in the Cathedral and collect the eggs and analyse them. However, we might not be able to do so, because, at some point, Peregrines may decide to eliminate these "useless" eggs. For the moment, they are still incubating the “useless” eggs. This is certainly indicating their lack of experience, as a couple that already went through several nesting periods would have more likely discarded them.

Another sign of inexperience: the titbites, the feeds were a bit risky during the first days. You could even clearly watch the male coming more often to feed the two newborns than the female. Normally, she is responsible for the majority of this task. But while the hours are passing by, and the days are passing by, the female gets more comfortable and feeds better and better and more and more regularly her two falcon chicks.

This morning at 8:02 am, facing camera 2, while the Peregrine female is keeping her two chicks warm underneath her, the male arrives on the balcony to bring her a prey. A small prey. She immediately grabs it. The male immediately retreats, probably in order to start hunting again without waiting.

In Peregrines, the two partners hunt. Their specialty is their exclusivity: the capture of birds in flight. They never capture a bird on the ground and even less often do they capture a mammal. But of course, never say never! Because a Peregrines won’t disdain to eat a small flying bat and ttherefore a mammal (!); while, on June 7, 1996, an Oystercatcher’ chick was discovered in a Peregrines’ nest, installed at the very top of a water cooling tower of the Electrabel/Engie nuclear power plant in Doel.

The small passerine brought by the male Peregrine this Friday morning is a European Goldfinch. This is the second time that this species has been observed on the Peregrines’ menu of the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula. This small, grain-eating passerine has suffered greatly from illegal capture. It became very rare in the 1980s and 1990s in Belgium. But today the population is large again. The European Goldfinch is not a common species in Brussels, hence a regular one, especially during the migration period. And it is most likely a goldfinch migrating to the British Isles that was captured by the male Peregrine. Ringing data show us indeed that tens of thousands of goldfinches nest on the other side of the Channel and winter in Belgium and in particular in Gaume. This one will never see his native England again, but he will have helped to feed a family of Peregrine Falcons!

The complete list of species listed on the cathedral's Peregrine Falcons menu can be found here (link to http://www.falconsforeveryone.be/prey?lang=en). Since the first surveys in 2004, we already observed 64 different species!


Video 1: The female Peregrine of the cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula feeds her falcons a European Goldfinch.