Rarely-seen falcon makes unexpected early visit to Denmark

A bird of prey from southern and eastern Europe has been spotted in several locations in Denmark, enthusing birdwatchers.

Rarely-seen falcon makes unexpected early visit to Denmark
A red-footed falcon. Photo: MennoSchaefer/Depositphotos

The red-footed falcon is not usually found this far north at the current time of year, according to the Danish Ornithological Society (DOF).

But, in the space of a few days this week, sightings of the bird have been recorded in Skagen, at Gilbjerg Hoved in northern Zealand, at the Kongelunden forest near Copenhagen, Hyllekrog on the island of Lolland and at the Bulbjerg chalk cliffs in northwestern Jutland.

The falcon can normally be seen during the summer, primarily at Skagen, which makes the multiple April sightings noteworthy.

“This is very unusual. What is extra unusual is that it is so early. Here (in Skagen) we’ve had a few individual sightings in April. Now, we’ve seen a whole flock,” said Simon S. Christiansen, a DOF nature guide in Skagen.

“That’s a sign that, if the wind and weather are right, we could get a real invasion of them,” Christiansen added.

Strong and mild winds from the southeast have brought the birds to Denmark from their breeding grounds. The bird of prey is a sight to behold, according to DOF’s guide.

“It is a really beautiful bird. The way it flies and hunts insects is special,” Christiansen said.

The falcon “catches insects in the air and eats while holding the insects in its claws,” he added.

Red-footed falcons feed primarily on grasshoppers, dragonflies, bees and other large insects.

READ ALSO: 'Three million' birds flew from Denmark since 1970s: report

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Why 30 percent of Denmark could be left to nature

A Danish environmental organization has received a positive political response over a proposal to ensure 30 percent of Denmark be reserved for nature.

Why 30 percent of Denmark could be left to nature
Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Society for Nature Conservation (Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, DN) wants the country’s nature to be written into law by way of an obligation to ensure 30 percent of Danish land to be nature reserve by 2031, DR reports.

The proposal was made as government politicians met at Marienborg, the official residence of the prime minister, on Monday for talks on biodiversity.

The concept of such a ‘biodiversity law’, which would place binding targets for Denmark on the area, was initially positively received.

The interest organization for the agriculture sector, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, has said it also supports biodiversity goals, while environment minister Lea Wermelin said she would listen to suggestions regarding both targets and legislation.

“Fundamentally, the biggest task right now is to reverse nature’s decline and ensure that over 2,000 species threatened by extinction get a helping hand and the chance to remain in Denmark,” DN president Maria Reumert Gjerding said to DR.

“So it’s crucial that politicians make commitments to nature targets,” she added.

The Marienborg meeting is the beginning of government work to implement a ‘package’ of laws on nature and biodiversity, which the Social Democratic government promised prior to the June general election.

Wermelin said action must be taken to prevent Denmark from entering a “natural crisis”.

“We are genuinely interested in a new process to form a long-term plan for Denmark’s nature. Although reports paint a bleak picture, they also say it’s possible to set a new, green direction,” she added.

The minister welcomed “specific ideas and wishes” from environmental organizations that could help in making such a plan, DR reports.

Although only 0.4 percent of the area of Denmark is currently wild nature, DN says the target could be reached by buying or renting land from landowners and leaving it to nature, as well as by ensuring a specified amount of agricultural land actively benefits biodiversity.

READ ALSO: Here are Denmark's 15 most beautiful natural areas