Belgrade falcons

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Few Belgraders know that there are two species of falcons nesting in Belgrade. The ancient deity Horus, a symbol of victory and infinite freedom, a peregrin falcon Falco peregrinus has found itself on the hand of the Victor in the Kalemegdan Park and has become a symbol of the city of Belgrade. While a large number of species are going extinct, peregrin falcon and common kestrel have adapted to the Belgrade noise and crown, and have accepted to share their living space with us. We can also share our living space with falcons, the species that have agreed to make nests on our balconies. Belgraders rarely look up at the sky, thus missing out on the perfect flight of top urban predators while sitting in Belgrade parks, waiting for a bus or simply while looking out through their windows. Although the peregrin falcon is a protected species, pigeon breeders haunt it and for this reason we are not giving away the locations of its sighting.

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Do they nest on your balcony as well?

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

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Increasingly less available food in nature has forced these species to come and adjust to urban settlements. Scattered waste constitutes ample source of food for rodents and pigeons that procreate in urban areas apparently limitlessly. This large source of food attracts predators into towns where they play their predatory role in the selection of the catch. During two decades of monitoring in urban and suburban areas covering 108 km2, we have marked around 300 nests of common kestrels in Belgrade. The number of active couples varies between 130 and 180 depending on the year. The average population density in Belgrade is 1.6 couples per square kilometre. In some parts of the city there have been no nests observed, while at some high-rise buildings in Vidikovac, Zemun and Novi Beograd they nest in groups up to 9 couples separated only by different floors. On an average, common kestrels annually eat up to 13 tons of rodents and lizards in Belgrade. By leaving space for the placement of nests when designing high-rise buildings, it would be made possible that these zealous cleaners of Belgrade do their “job” more ardently. Birds of prey accumulate hazardous matters from their habitat through their prey, thus being indicators of the quality of the environment and the consequences of pollution. They are the first to show adverse consequences of different pesticides and heavy metals, as they are more sensitive to them than mammals. Presence of birds of prey is a sign that we live in a relatively un-polluted environment. Falcons do not build nests, but rather they nest in holes in facades, concrete jardinières and ventilation pipes. Their nesting starts at the end of April and they lay eggs until June. They may lay up to 6 eggs, 4.5 on an average, and the eggs incubate over a period of 27-29 days. On an average, they raise 4 chicks that start flying after 27-32 days. The entire cycle takes 60 days. They may create problems with their high- pitch screeching which they use to greet one another and which wakes up people at dawn. If we want to preserve the diversity of life we have to accept that others also share their living space with us. Common kestrel is a rare bird of prey that has managed to adapt to our urban spaces where it is even more successful than in its natural habitat. Students of the Faculty of Biology monitor common kestrels in Belgrade. They mark nesting sites, number of eggs and number of hatched chicks. The chicks are ringed by a coloured tag in order to monitor birds from different parts of the city. Common kestrels are resident birds, so ringed specimen are usually found around the city. However, a common kestrel from Vidikovac was found in Tunisia the following winter at the distance of 1230 km, while another one died near Naples (Salerno in Italy) 633 km away.

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Mužjak,  foto Saša Preradović

Male, photo by Sasa Preradovic

Ženka, foto Geza Farkaš

Female, photo by Geza Farkas

Gnezda vetruški na Vidikovacu i Ušću

Common kestrel nests in Vidikovac and Usce

Karta gnezda vetruški

Common kestrel nests’ map

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