From Iceland — Falcon Deaths Traced To Lack Of Ptarmigans

Falcon Deaths Traced To Lack Of Ptarmigans

Published November 30, 2020

Photo by
Ólafur Larsen/Wikimedia Commons

Six dead or nearly-dead falcons have been found in Iceland throughout November, according to Vísir. Three of them were young and three were adults. Ornithologist Ólafur Karl Nielsen from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History said that when falcons are found dead they are almost always young, so this is unusual. Ólafur spoke to about the incident.

Falcons eat ptarmigans (and ptarmigans, as discussed by the Grapevine last month, don’t eat fish), and so when the ptarmigan population is in decline, the falcons start to hunt in areas which they are not used to.

“The fact that three experienced birds have been found dead in such a short time is unusual and remarkable, not least when they die in the middle of a town like in Akureyri and on the outskirts of the settlement in Seyðisfjörður,” said Ólafur.

The lack of prey means the falcons start to hunt in urban areas and injure themselves on fences. “Fences and lines often prove dangerous to the falcon when it does its acrobatics inside towns. The falcon’s main prey is the ptarmigan, but they range from tufted tit to greylag geese. And when conditions are hard like they are this year, falcons also eat carcasses, not only birds but also sheep and the like.”

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