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The Cathedral’s peregrine falcons

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

The peregrine falcon, emblematic species of the Egyptian dynasties and the God Horus, jewel of European fauna, was on the verge of extinction in France in the 60s and 70s.

In spring 2001 a pair of peregrine falcons made their nest in the tower of the Cathedral of Saint-Cécile and succeeded in fledging 3 young. Every year since then the pair have bred successfully at the site.

In 2005, the Tarn League for the Protection of Birds (Ligue pour le Protection des Oiseaux or LPO) made a proposal for a project to install a video transmission system for the pair of peregrine falcons nesting in the Cathedral tower. As part of its commitment to sustainable development and its desire to preserve and promote biodiversity in and around Albi (Action Plan n° 9 of the Agenda 21 of Albi), the town aims to invest fully through both the financing and the provision of technical competence necessary to put this project in place.

In 2006 a partnership was concluded with the L.P.O to negotiate the necessary authorisations for the technical installations in the Cathedral.

The authorisations were requested from France’s Chief Buildings Architect, Chief Architect for Historic Monuments and the curate of Albi Cathedral. After studying technical solutions responding to the L.P.O’s objectives, a negotiated contract was launched by the town in 2007 for the purchase and installation of cameras and I.T equipment necessary for saving and storing audio and video.

The falcon

The emblematic species of the Egyptian dynasties through the God Horus, jewel of European fauna, the peregrine falcon was on the verge of extinction in France in the 60’s and 70’s.

The reasons: the use of a powerful pesticide in agriculture, DDT, and the traffic of eggs or chicks by falconers. Since the banning of DDT and the introduction of new legislation in falconry, associated with monitoring of the natural habitats, the species has re-colonised areas from which it had previously disappeared.

Around 25 pairs are currently present in the Tarn department, all nesting in rocky habitats. Peregrine falcons habitually nest on cliff-faces.

Nesting in urban areas is rare in France although the number of urban pairs is increasing.

The history of Albi’s falcons

Winter 1988-89: two peregrine falcons are seen on the Cathedral, probably attracted by the large number of pigeons.

February 1989: thanks to the collaboration of the Parish of Sainte-Cécile and France’s Chief Buildings Architect, the Tarn L.P.O installs a nest box in the Cathedral.

Spring 1994: first nesting attempt. The female abandons the eggs after being disturbed by works on the tower.

Spring 2001: First successful nesting with three young falcons fledged. Falcons have successfully bred every year since.

2006: the town of Albi and the LPO begin a feasibility study for a video transmission project involving the installation of two cameras.

2007: authorisations are received for the installation of the equipment.

2008: the first images are broadcast.

2010: a film about the Cathedral’s falcons is produced and the first national symposium consecrated to peregrine falcons is organised at Albi. Biodiversity and the environment

As part of a new approach to sustainable management and promotion of the natural heritage and biodiversity in the urban milieu, the Tarn League for the Protection of Birds, the birds of prey section of the French League for the Protection of Birds and the town of Albi organised the first international colloquium on peregrine falcons at the Jean-François Champollion University the 19th and 20th of November 2010.

This symposium is just one of the events of scientific mediation and communication organised since the beginning of the project to film the nesting of the falcons in the tower.

Reuniting specialists from France and Europe, this symposium offered a varied programme: communications concerning the peregrine falcon, projection of a film about the nesting of the falcons at the Cathedral, unedited video sequences and round-tables on the theme of “Biodiversity, Birds of Prey and the Modern World.”

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