Archive for the ‘urban wildlife in Spain’ Category

Reintroduction of peregrine falcons in Barcelona

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

21/01/2007 I’ve been given the enjoyable job of translating this excellent and complete webpage on the reintroduction of peregrine falcons in Barcelona. At the moment it’s only in Catalan but Spanish and English versions will be available soon. Persecution drove the peregrine to extinction in the city in 1973, but a reintroduction programme has successfully brought the bird back using hacking, and there are now four pairs of peregrines in Barcelona (Montjuic cliffs, Mouth of River Besós, Santa Maria del Mar and Sagrada Familia). A couple of interesting snips adapted from the web:

  • During the hacking work in 1999 in the Church of Santa Maria del Pi, a pair of kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) nesting in the same bell tower brought food both to their chicks and the peregrine chicks inside the nest box. They almost always brought swifts (Apus apus) and house sparrows (Passer domesticus ). When the young peregrines left the nest box, they lived together with the young kestrels and could often be seen perched together. Update The person in charge of the programme had looked for suitable sites in the year in question, but hadn’t realised this one had kestrels nesting “next door”. When their own chicks had fledged – which was early, before the peregrines- the adult kestrels heard the peregrines and started to feed them – but they couldn’t see them as they were in a box. They dropped headless swifts and sparrows through the letterbox. They also continued to feed their young, now-flying birds. When the peregrines emerged both species seem to have got on fine, and were frequently seen perching together. The next year they repeated the hacking in the same site, but on this occasion the kestrels hatched and fledged later than the peregrines, and the adult kestrels did not feed the young peregrines.
    This phenomenon is somewhat surprising if we consider that both kestrels and peregrines are highly territorial species which zealously and aggressively protect their offspring. Moreover, peregrines will occasionally capture and eat kestrels.
  • Of particular interest in the diet of Barcelona ‘s peregrines is the presence of many migratory species, some as difficult to see as Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla), revealing the importance of the city as a point along the migratory routes of many species. Other species include scops owl, snipe, bar-tailed godwit and teal. A total of 29 different species of prey have been recorded since 1999, although pigeons make up 52% of their diet. Clearly, however Barcelona’s four pairs of peregrine make no dent on the city’s 180,000-strong army of doves. (Photos by Roger Sanmartà­ ) See also older piece on Kestrels and peregrine falcons in Barcelona

  • BBC Radio 4 Costing the Earth “Portugal: Species Wipe Out” Listen (30 minutes) Website
  • Barcelona parakeets

    Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

    Parakeets in the barrio By Lucy BrzoskaÂ

    No one pays the ubiquitous Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) much attention any more in Barcelona, unless they’re unlucky to have a raucous communal nest near their window. Once considered exotic, they’re now just another noisy element of city life. The Mitred parakeets (Aratinga mitrata) , on the other hand, still turn heads. Every Christmas, in the busy San Antonio neighbourhood, shoppers look up in surprise as squadrons of up to 40 of these large green and red birds descend into the streets. They’re attracted by the round black seeds of the Celtis australis (European nettle trees, almez), plentiful in this area and more resistant to pollution than the other Barcelona staple, the plane tree. This year’s seed crop is particularly plentiful. The parakeets settle in the trees and work along the branches, stripping them methodically. From below, you hear an incessant cracking as they open up the seeds to get at the kernels and litter the pavements and parked cars with husks. They’re handsome birds, deep green with red markings on the head, and larger than the Monk parakeet. While feeding they keep up a subdued squawking, which rises to a crescendo when on a signal every member of the group takes off, instantly falling into formation. In a few seconds they’re gone, the cacophony fading away. When they regroup, they generally head in the direction of Park Ciudadella, so I suspect that’s their base. Their annual visits to the neighbourhood give the impression that their city population is stable, unlike the more invasive Monk parakeet. By Lucy Brzoska. See also Natural History of Barcelona + Blue-fronted Amazon in Barcelona