Stage 8: Dole > Les Rousses
Spotlight on the peregrine falcon
Stage 8 crosses the Vallées Natura 2000 site and the coasts of Bienne, Tacon and Flumen (FR4301331 and FR4312012). The hollow of the valleys, the contradiction between the steep and gentle slopes, the contrast between the high and low valleys, the nature of the limestone, and the presence of ancient glacial valleys and plateaus give rise to a great diversity of natural environments in this area, which is run by the Haut-Jura regional natural park. The site’s limestone cliffs are also the residence and breeding grounds of the peregrine falcon.
The peregrine falcon species has about 20 subspecies. Its distribution area extends over nearly 10,000,000 km² throughout the world, on all continents except Antarctica! It is one of the most significant distribution areas in the world. The European population of peregrine falcons represents less than a quarter of the estimated population worldwide.
The Vallées site and coasts of Bienne, Tacon and Flumen, with an area of 175.94 km², shelter between 5 and 8 breeding pairs of this species.
Characteristics and lifestyle
The adult is easily recognisable by its dark mask, which contrasts with its white throat. Its grey-blue back contrasts with the black streaks on its belly. Be careful not to confuse it with the Eurasian sparrowhawk which, at a distance, looks just like it.
With a wingspan of approximately 1 m, it is the largest falcon in France!
From mid-February, the peregrine falcon searches for a flat cliff to shelter its brood from martens and wild cats. A fearsome predator, it hunts birds (usually the size of a robin or a pigeon) that it can spot from 4 km away thanks to its over-developed eyes, which it then attacks by surprise: it pretends to move away, climbs up and then dives on its prey, easily reaching speeds of 300 km/h. Only the noise made by the air tearing will alert the bird and scupper the attack!
State of conservation and conservation measures
A catastrophic decline of this species was observed in the 1950s and 1960s, due to the pillage of nests by egg collectors and falconers, shooting and the use of organochlorine pesticides (DDT in particular), which led to many being poisoned or sterilised. In the space of two decades, the populations of peregrine falcons in the industrialised countries of the northern hemisphere have decreased by 90%. Today, by mitigating these causes of decline and putting protective measures in place, this extraordinary predator has increased its numbers tenfold in thirty years!
Source: INPN, La Hulotte no. 45, http://www.parc-haut-jura.fr