Action C.2 | Implementation of structural interventions to be carried on private buildings in order to promote the breeding of the Falco Naumanni in the historical centres of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura

Even if the interventions carried out on public buildings are to be considered a priority for the high symbolic and educational value of actions implemented by the local administration on buildings with great relevance from the historical, cultural and symbolic point of view, nevertheless it is not possible to conceive an action significant in terms of species conservation do not considering private buildings. In this sense, it will be necessary to involve the private citizens on a volunteer basis providing a public financial support for restructuring walls and roofs in order to provide the targeted species with suitable breeding and nesting sites. The action will have the triple ends of a) creating new openings (niches) or collocating artificial nests for breeding, b) re-opening of the holes that were closed during refurbishing or restructuring works for sanitary or aesthetic reasons, c) closing selectively the holes on the buildings’ walls or under the roofs’ tiles for the control of the pigeons’ nesting.

This action will be developed issuing a public notice in the partner municipalities. This notice will be presented in a public event for involving the citizens and sensitizing them on the target priority species’ needs and features. Sanitary, noises and aesthetic topics related to the breeding and nesting cycle of the Falco Naumanni within the city centre and to the structural interventions to be carried out will be particularly focused by experts and local authorities in order to create the right attitude for the successful implementation of this action. This species has a special significance at educational level considering that, particularly in this area, it lives at strict contact with the humans. Following the manifestation of interest from the citizens concerning the possibility to carry out the foreseen “light” structural intervention, a specific on-site evaluation of the level of satisfaction of technical requirements needed for implementing the works will be performed by the research group. After having collected a sufficient number (about 150/200) of adhesions the local authorities will launch a tender for works which will call the local companies to compete on a best value for money offers.

The involvement of private citizens in lesser kestrel and other priority species’ protection is systematically pursued since 2001 by the local LIPU section of Gravina in collaboration with the Alta Murgia National Park. Previous interventions related to the installation/construction of artificial nests/wall niches within private buildings demonstrated considerable interest and voluntary commitment from the citizenship which spontaneously asked for consultancy and effective installation/construction. Actually more than 150 among artificial nests and wall niches are present in private building between Gravina and Altamura, but the activities were mainly implemented on voluntary and not structured basis.

Currently the good will of the citizenship to collaborate in actuating the Apulia Regional Regulation 24/2005 – concerning “Conservation measures related to priority wild birds’ species of Community Importance nesting in constructed centres located in SICs or SPAs” and preventing private citizens and construction companies from “sterilising” the building – is inhibited by the following constraints i) poor communication towards the citizens on the priority species’ features, ii) residual prejudices concerning the supposed dangerousness of these animals from the sanitary/hygienic or other points of view, iii) lack of interest in spending additional money for buying equipment (artificial nests) or paying the further manpower needed for obtaining wall niches in pre-existing private buildings’ walls, iv) lack of specialised ornithology consultancy for selecting the best location for these kind of interventions.

The above mentioned constraints are directly tackled by the project as follows i) and ii) the participant municipalities will call for an expression of interest by private citizens concerning the initiative for the protection of the lesser kestrel (C2), the call will be presented publicly with the participation of experts which will present the species, explaining the positive impact of these kind of interventions providing specific reassurance on their hygienic safety, iii) ornithologists from the local LIPU sections will be put at project disposal for consultancy on where (specific position in the building) and how carrying out the interventions, iv) for all the project duration and until their exhaustion artificial nests and construction will be provided without a private spending, being paid by the project.

Moreover, concerning the possible lack of answers to the call, it should be considered that the Apulia Regional Regulation 24/2005 prevent private citizens and construction companies from “sterilising” the building to be restored in the historical centres or in their vicinity through the closing of wall niches or possible recoveries suitable for lesser kestrel’s nesting and breeding season. The normative feature of this regulation, immediately applicable to the whole regional territory, will be made respected through some kind of low financial/administrative penalty for people which do not adhere to the initiative.
The number of artificial nests/wall niches to be installed/constructed was initially estimated in 50% and 50%, but these figures will be certainly modified according to the different features of the targeted buildings.

According to the previous experiences in non-structured (since 2001) and structured (since 2007, with a project financed by the National LIPU “Una casa per il grillaio”) project, the local population is quite sensitised on priority species’ conservation. The present project would valorise more than 10 years of commitment, mainly provided on individual and often voluntary basis, involving the public authorities at all the institutional levels (from the Municipalities on the ground to the Region, from the Province of Bari to the Alta Murgia National Park) in an integrated effort, providing a quite sound basis for planning a long lasting intervention of conservation (for the project duration and beyond) which would greatly contribute in arising the already proved positive attitude of the citizenship.

The two involved municipalities of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura will call for letters from private citizens willing to collaborate within the same call for expression of interest mentioned in Q2 a). The letters will also contain data on buildings to be interested by the intervention, so that a preliminary assessment by ornithologists and technicians on the feasibility of the intervention will be possible.

Works will be carried out between Autumn and Winter. According to this, the call for expression of interest could be issued immediately at the project eventual starting date (summer), so that after a preliminary assessment, the works could start in late Autumn – after a preliminary assessment phase – lasting until mid-March at the maximum, each year.
Concerning the cultural attitude of the local population towards the «falcunett’» (so called in local dialect), it should be also mentioned that are currently decades the private citizens who ask for artificial nests’ installation. Considering the special feature of their relationship with the nature and the animals, the children are certainly a privileged project stakeholders being often their insistency to bring the parents to “voluntarily” ask for niches construction or artificial nest installation. In this sense, the project acronym “Un Falco per amico” highlight the “familiar” feature of this extraordinary bird.

The utilisation of artificial wooden nests would considerably reduce the costs of this action (60 euro each), but considering the action’s sustainability and the recommendations contained in the “Manual de gestión de hábitats del Cernícalo Primilla” (LIFE05 NAT/F/000134), where wooden nest boxes only are recommended under cover (e.g. under the roof inside the building), long lasting and weather resistant materials such as wood cement, brick works & ceramic plastered with mortar, will be preferred. In any case the more suitable intervention will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

For being considered adapt for the Falco Naumanni breeding and nesting these holes have to be featured as follows: 20-30cm length X 30-40 cm width X 15-30cm height (“Manual de gestión de hábitats del Cernícalo Primilla”, p. 60). This particular intervention will be allowed by the considerable width of the old buildings’ walls in the Southern Italy historical town centres. Another important feature to be considered in the opening of this holes is the entrance of the nest. An entrance of about 6-6,2 cm allows the raptor to enter inside living outside pigeons, sensibly bigger than the Falco Naumanni, and other not targeted and not priority species (ibidem).


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