Contrary to popular notion, the environs of Paris are only 20 percent urban; 80 percent of the region covers a rural landscape. Within the city, parks and wildlife reserves thrive. Additionally, at the western, eastern and southern parts of the city lie acres of woodlands that are home to species of vegetation and animal life. Paris belongs to the biome of the northern European stretch of temperate deciduous forests. A biome refers to a region characterized by its plant and animal life and its climate.
The Forest of Fontainebleau, located 35 miles southeast of Paris, consists of 50,000 acres of woodland where century-old oak trees can be found alongside other flora and fauna that grow in a diverse topography of rocky plateaus and gorges, and arid spaces. Artists Camille Corot and Theodore Rousseau were drawn toward the magnificent Fontainebleau, the largest forest in France, to make these towering oak trees the subject of their art.
The fleur-de-lys or the “lily flower” is considered by many to be the most common flower associated with Paris. Not everyone realizes that this famous symbol of French royalty and culture used by Clovis I, the fifth-century king of the Franks, is not actually a lily. The actual flower is a yellow iris which was abundant in the area during his time.
Also found at the Forest of Fontainebleau are two species of deer—the large red deer and the small roe deer. The red deer is one of largest deer species, standing about 4 feet at the shoulder. The forest is the natural habitat of the deer, which were once popular for game.
A kestrel is a bird of prey that belongs to the falcon family. Parisian kestrels thrive at the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. Birdwatchers enjoy studying the approximately 40 pairs of kestrels nesting in Paris’ famous landmarks. Armed with telescopes and long-range cameras, local birdwatchers set up a kestrel-watching station behind Notre Dame Cathedral. The birds usually mate in February and lay eggs in April. The chicks are hatched in May and can be seen flying on their own by early July. In June, you can find adult kestrels bringing home a mouse or a sparrow to the young ones.