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Young peregrine falcons at Unipetrol already got an ID, although their sex remains uncertain

28-05-2020  

Ornithologists have banded three peregrine falcon chicks on Unipetrol premises in Záluží near Litvínov. The identification rings will help the experts to know the place of birth and age of the birds in the future. For instance, this information is not available about the parents of the chicks that are not ringed. It is because it is impossible to band all peregrine falcons, especially those living in the wild. The Unipetrol Group has been cooperating with the non-profit ALKA Wildlife association on the peregrine falcon project since 2011. Their initiative has so far helped with the hatching of 30 chicks on Unipetrol plant chimneys. 
 
                  
 
 
A band as an ID card; sex remains uncertain
 
The same pair has been living on a 100-metre high chimney of the T700 boiler house for many years. The chicks can be watched online at www.starameseosokoly.cz. “There are three chicks in the box, but we are not sure about their sex. There are definitely two baby girls and perhaps one boy, or a smaller girl. We will see when they start growing up. All of them are alive and kicking,” says ornithologist Václav Beran of ALKA Wildlife. Experts band the birds to be able to learn some information about them in the future: “We cannot make difference between peregrine falcons with the naked eye, but we can recognise them by the bands. When the young get a ring, it is as an ID card number. Cameras or binoculars will then help us to see exactly which peregrine falcon it is. With the rings, we know if the birds from Unipetrol are thriving, where they move, with whom they nest, if they are faithful, and other juicy details from their life,” Václav Beran elaborates. The peregrine falcon female laid four eggs in the nest on the boiler house chimney at Unipetrol. One of them was not fertilised.
 
Peregrine falcons reproduce successfully
 
“Each year, we invest more than CZK 1 billion in greening projects implementation. I am happy that we can encourage such amazing projects like the breeding of peregrine falcons. We have been looking after these precious raptors at Unipetrol for 11 years. We have two nest boxes in Litvínov, one in Kralupy, and one in Neratovice. This year has been very successful. Next to three chicks in Litvínov, we also have two chicks in Neratovice. We have so far helped to raise 30 chicks, which is a significant contribution to expanding the peregrine falcon population in the Czech Republic,” says Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of the Unipetrol Group. He adds: “Besides, we have this year installed an online camera to one nest in Litvínov, thus enabling the general public to watch the life of peregrine falcons online.”
 
Peregrine falcons start reproducing quite early. The mating call takes place from February, and the female usually settles on eggs in March. The incubation period lasts 30–⁠32 days. Once the chicks hatch, they do not remain in the nest for long. They can leave it after one month when they fly around the nest. Ideally, ornithologists band chicks that are 15–⁠25 days old. If the birds were younger, the band could not be put on. And older peregrines can defend themselves and be too aggressive. This could result in their injury or fall from the box.
 
Varied diet is essential – pigeons, jays, even bats
 
In Unipetrol’s nest box, ornithologists could see what the chicks get for lunch. The menu contains bats and other birds such as hawfinches, starlings, pigeons, and jays. “There has been a jay invasion this year, and it could also be seen on the peregrine menu. Peregrine falcons react to the most frequent prey in their vicinity,” Václav Beran of ALKA Wildlife describes. 
 
When parents have chicks, the peregrines have a hectic day. When the falcons do not nest, they will do with one mid-sized bird a day. They eat it and then rest. But when they have young, the parents need to care for a box full of chicks all day long. They fly out to hunt early in the morning. And then they come back and go hunting again. And again. There is sometimes not enough food, and parents need to share everything with their children. If there is any surplus, the male eats the leftovers because he is smaller and hunts smaller birds. “We could see the male coming, looking around the box, and if the chicks do not eat everything, the male fills up on a leg from the prey,” ornithologist Václav Beran concludes.
 
The peregrine can live up to 20 years and returns to its favourite nesting grounds for life. With a maximum dive speed exceeding 350 km/h, it is probably the fastest animal on Earth. The peregrine is a bird species that has traditionally been found in the Czech Republic. The population of this predator that hunts pigeons, ducks, other smaller birds and bats was the highest in the 1940s and 1950s when at least 60 breeding pairs were present in the territory of what was then Czechoslovakia. Peregrines disappeared from the Czech landscape in the 1970s as a result of the excessive use of agricultural pesticides. They started reappearing at the end of the 1980s. At the turn of the millennium, about 20 pairs were breeding in the Czech Republic. Today, thanks to strict protection, some 100 pairs of peregrines live in our country.
 
Video from peregrine falcons ringing here!
 
The Unipetrol Group is the largest refinery and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. It focuses on crude-oil processing and on the production, distribution and sale of vehicle fuels and petrochemical products – particularly plastics and fertilisers. In all these areas, it belongs among the important players on the Czech and Central European market. The Unipetrol Group encompasses refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo with its Mogul brand in Pardubice and Kolín, Spolana Neratovice, and two research centres in Litvínov and Brno. Unipetrol also includes a network of Benzina filling stations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With 418 filling stations, Benzina is the largest chain in the Czech Republic. Unipetrol is one of the largest companies in terms of turnover in the Czech Republic. It earned over CZK 129 billion last year and employs more than 4,800 persons. In addition to its business development, Unipetrol is proud to be a socially responsible corporation. Therefore, it pays an equal amount of attention to initiatives which focus on the cultivation and support of sustainable development, education, local communities, and the environment. In 2005, Unipetrol became a member of the PKN Orlen Group, the largest crude-oil processor in Central Europe.
 
For more information, please visit the “Responsible Company” section at www.unipetrol.cz.
 
Contact information: Pavel Kaidl, spokesman, telephone: +420 225 001 407, +420 736 502 520,
 
 

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