The fire that partially destroyed the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral has deprived many species of birds, including Kestrels, which used to nest there, of shelter (15/04/2019). To preserve them and allow their return, appeals to the responsibility of those responsible for the restoration of this emblematic monument.

Kestrels, blue tits, robins, jackdaws… What do they have in common? All these species had found refuge in the “bolt holes” – in other words, in cavities – on the heights of Notre-Dame de Paris. Unfortunately, the birds had deserted the site during the gigantic fire of 15 April 2019… in the middle of the breeding season.

But in July 2021, a few months before the start of restoration work, three young falcons were spotted in the vicinity of the capital’s emblematic monument! A nice surprise,” says Emmanuel du Chérimont – coordinator of the “Falcons” group for the LPO Ile-de-France – contacted by Thanks to its height and lack of facing walls, the site is ideal for young birds to learn to fly.

From now on, it is up to those responsible for the work (Architecte des Bâtiments de France, Établissement Public chargé de la Restauration de Notre-Dame de Paris) to encourage the conditions for the return of this protected species. To do this, it is important not to fill in the cavities: “The north tower of Notre-Dame, the church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, the dungeon of the Château de Vincennes, etc. The Kestrels that used to nest there on a permanent basis disappeared overnight when these cavities were filled in,” deplores the coordinator. The argument put forward is the fight against pigeons: a false pretext when other means exist to achieve this objective… such as simply respecting the ban on feeding pigeons!

The unanimous adoption by the Paris Council, at the beginning of July 2021, of a vow in favour of the protection of the birds of Notre-Dame is however an encouraging signal. “The falcons will find their place once the work is finished,” reassures Paris councillor Maud Lelievre. The LPO is to be heard, to this end, by the 8th commission of the Paris Council on biodiversity in September 2021. But it will still have to obtain the agreement of Jean-Louis Georgelin, President of the Public Establishment in charge of the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame.

This protection is all the more essential as the Kestrel population in Paris has fallen by 40% since 2000, according to the annual “Falcon” survey. This decline is linked to the scarcity of their prey: “In principle, the falcons feed on voles and field mice which are only found outside the capital,” explains E. du Chérimont. So these birds of prey had to turn to sparrows, a species that lives in cavities and eats grains, whose numbers have plummeted in recent years (down 75% since 2004)! The cause is the renovation of buildings and the consequent disappearance of cavities, as well as the reduction of their food resources due to the collapse of insect populations.

The Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis hopes to see many of these birds flying over the Ile de la Cité soon. The naturalist Jean-Joseph Gerbe already observed their presence on Notre-Dame in 1840,” concludes the LPO representative. They are part of our historical heritage and must be preserved!

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