First eventful fledging!

Fledging is always an impressive and crucial moment. After staying for weeks, even months (in the case of albatrosses), in the safety of a nest, without moving, under the supervision of parents who feed, the young bird will have to learn to fly and to find food. Depending on the species, learning will be progressive… or not!

A tit leaves its nest without knowing how to fly. It will hop from branch to branch for a few hours, gain confidence, “understand” how its wings work. It will then fledge over a few meters at low height. Its parents are near, feeding it punctually until it understands that the little green caterpillar dancing there on that green leaf, is a delicacy! Just you need to lay down next to it and gulp to swallow it.

Among peregrines, the parents also watch over the juveniles. They stay close to the newly fledged falcons. They continue to feed them while they learn to capture prey. Learning is obviously somewhat more complex than in the case of the tit. Needless to say, just landing next to a common swift or Eurasian collared-dove isn't enough to catch it! But the biggest difference compared to most other bird species, the biggest challenge for the young peregrine, is that he does not have much opportunity to practice. The situation of the nest, well protected in the hollow of a ledge on a 100 m high cliff or on the balcony of a thousand-year-old cathedral, becomes a mortal danger! When the time has come for fledging, there is only one solution: throw yourself into the void! And this is where natural selection begins. Many young peregrines cannot resist this moment of fledging. Anyone who did not immediately understand how to "play" with the air currents, how to move their rectrices (tail feathers) in order to orient themselves will find themselves on the ground. In less time than it takes to tell. And there, things get complicated! Because the muscles of the young peregrine are not yet sufficiently developed. Logic: it has been sitting quiet in its nest for 6 weeks. Consequence: he does not have the ability to take off again from the ground. As a result, its fate is known.

There is no exception to this phenomenon for the peregrine falcons nesting in Brussels. Each year, a few are found on the ground, lost. But there is a big difference with other circumstances. The falcons are so well known in Brussels that a "rescue chain" is organized as soon as a citizen discovers a young falcon on the ground. On the front line, there is the Royal Belgian League for the Protection of Birds which organizes a Care Center for wild animals (02/5212850,

If the falcon is stuck at a height, this rarely happens, but it does happen, a specialized team from the Brussels Fire Brigade intervenes. If necessary with the large ladder allowing to climb up to 34 m high!

In the vast majority of cases, the falcon is not injured because it has reached the ground while gliding. Because it's supposed to fly! In the event of an injury, the appropriate treatment will be provided by the veterinarians who collaborate (volunteer) at the care centre.

Then follows the team of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, which is responsible for taking the falcon back to its nest or to a nearby roof. It is indeed essential that he reconnects as quickly as possible with his parents and … that he tries to fledge again. So it has a second chance!

In recent days, 7 rescues have been made. However, it is quite exceptional. But the explanation is simple: the strong wind that has been blowing in Brussels for a week and which further complicates the fledging process!

Three juvenile falcons hatched on the Saint Antoine church in Etterbeek, 1 (2x) juvenile falcon from the ULB and the only-one falcon (2x) from the cathedral, all experienced the rescue chain. Only one was injured and is still in treatment. The others were taken back to their nest. Those of Saint Antoine were taken back to the gutter of the main nave, that of the ULB on the roof of the tallest building on the Solbosch campus, that of the cathedral, on the top of the tower which houses the nest.

To be continued !

Blog 01062023 photo 1. One of the juvenile falcons from the Saint Antoine church in Etterbeek stuck 36 m high in the wire of the lightning rod (photo DV).

Blog 01062023 photo 2. Delicate but successful rescue thanks to the dexterity and professionalism of the Brussels Fire Brigade (photo DV)!

Blog 01062023 photo 3. A falcon of Saint Anthony back on the church (photo DV).

Blog 01062023 photo 4. The juvenile falcon of the cathedral under good police guard. The agents watched him for an hour while a team arrived on site (photo DV)!

Blog 01062023 photo 5. One of the two young ULB males ready to fledge again for new adventures (photo DV).