For many centuries, the Peregrine Falcon soared over the sky of Barcelona, watching its prey from the magnificent lookout posts formed by the Gothic and Modernist buildings of the city. From the top of the bell tower of Sta. Maria del Pi or from the tip of one of the pinnacles of the Sagrada Família, the Peregrine dived in pursuit of an unsuspecting pigeon, its favourite fare in Barcelona.
Taking a pigeon here, and a starling and a magpie there, Peregrines made a living in Barcelona. They found abundant food, imposing lookout posts from where to survey their territory and their prey, and a safe haven no longer available outside, where hunting was a common practice. They felt so at home that they nested year after year. Historical documents and oral accounts tell us, for instance, that Peregrines bred on Santa Maria del Pi at the start of the 20th century, on Sagrada Família in the mid-20th century and on Santa Maria del Mar in the last third of the 20th century.
The species finally disappeared from Barcelona in 1973 because the law of the time permitted the Peregrine Falcon, like any other raptor, to be killed.
Since disappearing as a nester, it then only visited the city during the cold months of winter. These were individuals from Central and Northern Europe which wintered here, taking advantage of Barcelona's benign climate.
During the last twenty years of the last century thanks to the increase in awareness and the passing of stricter environmental laws, the conservation of the environment in general, and of wildlife in particular, took on a considerable impetus.
Through the project and thanks to the release of forty Peregrine chicks in high buildings around the city, three pairs of falcons bred in Barcelona in 2005, along with a further pair in the metropolitan area.
This has brought life back to the words of the writer Sempronio when he spoke in 1959 to the Diari de Barcelona about the birds of Barcelona:
(...) a sparrowhawk (sic) has been seen around the neighbourhood of Santa María del Mar, hunting gullible pigeons, and dwelling in the towers of the basilica".
Our society can congratulate itself that the Peregrine Falcon is breeding once again around our city, representing one of the jewels of its natural heritage.