France’s society for the protection of birds has issued a plea for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame to keep the original holes atop the edifice that were home to kestrels and other species for centuries before the cathedral was devastated by fire in 2019.
Under current plans they could be removed.
The “putlock holes”, initially used for scaffolding, have been favoured as nesting sites for kestrels since 1840, with blue tits and swifts also plumping for them for their offspring.
But with President Emmanuel Macron adamant the cathedral will be reopened for visitors in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) has issued an appeal that its feathered friends do not fall “fowl” of reconstruction work, whose launch is imminent.
Legislation rushed through parliament to speed up the process waived certain environmental obligations that LPO fears mean the birds’ welfare will be overlooked.
“The argument to remove them is to say it will avoid the proliferation of pigeons and will thus put a stop to droppings,” said Emmanuel du Cherimont, LPO member for the Paris region.
“But on the contrary, birds must not be forgotten and the putlock holes must not be filled. They are essential for the life of falcons,” he told Le Parisien.
A couple of kestrels had been nesting in Notre-Dame before the blaze and briefly returned to the northern transept, but have since left due to the noise from works and drone overflights.
The LPO has also called for the addition of nest boxes “the same colour as the limestone”.
Mr Cherimont said the cathedral and its square had also been home to sparrows, common redstarts and coal tits but feared they could have been affected by lead pollution after 400 tonnes of the toxic metal went up in smoke in the April 2019 blaze.
Earlier this month, Paris authorities were accused in a legal complaint of failing to safeguard the health of people living near the cathedral due to such lead pollution. (© Telegraph Media Group 2021)