The peregrine falcons didn’t return in 1994 by chance, after 25 years of absence due to DDT poisoning and poaching. They were welcomed by the Electrabel group - now ENGIE - which funded the Fond d’Intervention pour les Rapaces to install a network of nesting boxes on the cooling towers of most of their power plants.
The idea was brilliant: the power plants are well-kept sites, the risk of disruption was therefore particularly weak. Additionally, the factories are spread throughout the country, allowing to quickly create a network capable of receiving the first couple which was observed near Germany.
And it worked! The first couple returned in 1994 at the Tihange plant in the Meuse valley. In 1995, a second couple moved to the chimney of the Langerlo power plant (Genk, in Limburg). In the spring of 1996, a new couple moved to the Doel plant in the Scheldt estuary. In 1997, a fourth couple started nesting in Seraing, in the Val Saint Lambert, again in the Meuse valley. After a few years, 100% of the returning peregrine falcons had made nests on the sites of Electrabel-ENGIE. Success!
Since then, the population of peregrine falcons has grown substantially. An estimated number of 150 couples is nesting in Belgium this spring. The estimated number of pairs nesting in Belgium this spring. And ENGIE-Electrabel has always been a partner for the success of the peregrine falcons in Belgium!
Of course, many couples still nest in electricity production plants. One of the sites in the Meuse valley was visited yesterday. The nest box is installed at a height of 80 meters, on a step of the ladder running along a cooling tower. Surprisingly, grasses had grown on the terrace of the nest. How is this possible? Thanks to seeds in the throat of pigeons that have been captured by the falcons...
Surprise! There are 2 little falcons, 2 and 5 days old. Why the difference with the falcons of the cathedral and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre? Perhaps because the nesting female is not the same as that of last year. Her ring could be observed with the help of a telescope. The female from last year, which nested on the site for several years, was born in Germany. The new one is probably born in Belgium. We're not sure yet, because the code of the ring has not yet been completely deciphered. Maybe the female from last year is dead, and maybe the new, inexperienced female started nesting too late. Just a hypothesis!
Still, these « electrical » falcons should take flight around June 30th.
The video below shows a nest on another industrial site. These 4 falcons are 3 weeks old.