House Sharing

Every year since we have lived in France, we have been joined in our home in the spring and early summer by a family of kestrels. And when I say ‘in our home’, I really do mean ‘in’ – the kestrels return each year to nest in the same hole in the wall of our house, just above our back terrace and right outside our kitchen door. From a bit of research into these birds, it would appear that these are the same breeding pair each year; they are long lived at 15 or more years, they mate for life and are very territorial.

‘Our’ kestrels have become part of the family now; they are used to our habits and seem unperturbed by our comings and goings, loud mealtimes on the terrace below their nest or by noisy children (and shouting parents.) The only thing that really upsets them is our two cats who take to hiding under the table when the kestrels are nesting to avoid being dive-bombed. We also have got used to their habits and are careful never to walk directly under the nest nor sit too close, particularly as the babies grow and get more adept at dropping pellets and everything else out of the nest onto unsuspecting loiterers below. We have had at least two visitors who have lingered too long outside the kitchen door and have had a very lucky day as a result.

Despite this, we love having them here and look forward to their return each year, eagerly watching for the first signs of nesting which is followed by the calling of the chicks and then our first glimpse of them as they demand more and more food from their industrious parents. We watch as they get so big that they barely any longer fit in their nest hole and seem to literally teeter on the edge for much of the day, calmly observing the comings and goings below. When they finally fledge, most seem to make it safely to the walnut tree opposite although occasionally they join us on the terrace for a few hours, like this one in the photo, before managing to get properly air bound.

Then they gradually move further and further afield although still close enough that we hear their distinctive calls for the rest of the summer and often see them perched watching us from the roof of the house. We feel very privileged to have such a ringside view of the life cycle of such a magnificent bird – another bonus of living in a region where there is plenty of unspoiled habitat, meadows and food for them thanks to the ubiquity of organic and traditional methods of farming here.

Comments are closed.