A small selection of birds that people may find interesting including some of the birds of prey to be seen in France. Click on the photos to open files
The Honey Buzzard, despite its name, is not related to the true buzzards. Unlike the Common Buzzard it is a migratory species in France and spends the winter period from September or October until April in Africa.
The Common Crane is one of the largest birds in Europe with a wingspan of 2 meters and a weight of 4 - 6 kg. Overall plumage is a nearly uniform grey with long legs and neck. Autumn and Spring migrations are spectacular for those on their flight paths.
Historically the Goshawk has been one of the most persecuted birds of prey in Europe and combined with the use of Organochlorine pesticides such as DDT there was near extinction in many countries.
Historically widespread in France the Peregrine falcon was threatened with extinction the population dropping to perhaps as few as 150 couples a scenario that was more or less repeated throughout its global range where there was the use of organochlorine pesticides, especially DDT, during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
The Osprey became extinct in France in the 19th century but successfully bred in the forêt d’Orléans, Loiret in 1985 at l’étang du Ravoir followed by two other couples in 1991 and three others in 1993. In 2012 Loiret retains its importance with 20 of the 31 breeding pairs in the Centre region with Osprey also present in Maine-et-Loire, Yonne and Moselle. Tentative efforts at breeding have also been observed in Brittany and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
The first breeding in Spain was in the 1970’s and then, having initially arrived in France in the 1980’s, we witnessed the first successful pair to breed in 1990 in Aquitaine. The Black-winged Kite has now established itself in south west France, (Landes and Pyrenées-atlantic) and they have now nested in Dordogne, Charente Maritime, Charente, Deux Sevres and in Vienne
Due to a dependence on snakes as a primary food source the Short toed eagle is restricted to the southern and eastern regions of Europe with the largest populations to be found in Spain and France.
Although they are, as the name suggests, principally birds of wetlands – lakes, marshes and coastal regions, they can also be found on open land and increasingly where there is cultivation of cereals. They are a great predator of waterfowl eggs and chicks but also take frogs, lizards, insects and small mammals with the occasional rabbit.
Bee eaters are one of our most colourful birds with a blue-green turquoise abdomen, chest and lower wings, reddish-brown on the back, the cap and the top of the wings, dark green tail and long slightly curved black beak. Bib yellow with black border, black eyes with red iris.
In Europe France hosts by far the largest number of nesting pairs with 22,000 to 26,000 pairs and these can be found nesting everywhere in the Country except the north-west.
The Common Buzzard is by far the commonest Bird of Prey that can be easily seen by everyone in France “without even having to look or get out of their car”. They are widespread throughout Europe and parts of Asia Minor, but this hasn’t always been the case.
The Little Bustard is quite a large bird at 44 cm, (that’s about Crow size), rather shy with a tendency to crouch down and lie flat in ground cover when disturbed. It is fully migratory in the west of France, (principally Poitou-Charentes), with the majority of the birds over wintering in Spain. A non migratory population is in La Crau, Var, (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).
The Great Egret or Great White Egret, (Ardea alba), is a common sight in much of France but this is a relatively recent phenomena. As short a time ago as the 1980’s they were a rare winter visitor and only to be seen occasionally in the very south of France in Camargue and yet 100 years before that they were abundant in the country much the same as today.
Corncrake arrive at their breeding grounds in April/June after over wintering in Sub Saharan Africa, the females arriving a little later than the males. Corncrakes have short term relationships, a female will be attracted to a singing male when a close association takes place until egg-laying.
In France, the Alpine and Pyrenean mountains are home to the largest breeding populations. The Jura massif is home to a few dozen couples. They are absent from the Vosges and there are only a few cases of reproduction in the Massif Central.