It is primarily the birdlife on Rømø that is worth writing home about. Rømø has common Danish animals such as deer, hares, foxes, stoats and many water voles, but the millions of migratory birds flying over Rømø in spring and autumn really are a unique attraction. It is best to observe birds from the coastal meadows at Rømø dyke, Juvre and from the dyke in Stormengene at Havneby.
Denmark is a favourite breeding ground for the Kentish plover, and they only breed in the Wadden Sea. The biscuit coloured bird is about 16cm long and is recognisable because of its black legs and a black spot on the side of its chest. They prefer nesting in the low sand dunes and short-grassed meadows on Fanø and Rømø. Most of the breeding Kentish plovers in Denmark are spotted near Sønderstrand on Rømø. The Kentish plover is an endangered species.
Ducks, geese and wading birds enjoy the windy Stormengene on the southern point of Rømø.
Stormengene is a bird sanctuary owned by Fugleværnsfonden (a bird charity). Fugleværnsfonden has created good living conditions for the little yellow wagtail, common eider, oystercatcher, lapwing, redshank, lark and meadow pipit, all of which breed in the area. The yellow wagtail lives off insects from grazing cattle cow pats.
Move slowly to the top of the Havneby dyke; there is an excellent view of the birdlife at Stormengene.
Millions of migratory birds fly over Rømø in April to May and September to October, and you can see more than 20 different species of wading birds in one day. There are mostly ducks and wading birds, but birds of prey such as rough-legged buzzards, peregrine falcons, merlins and marsh harriers migrate also roost here. Among breeding wading birds on Rømø, you can see oystercatchers, lapwings, redshanks and whimbrels. Extra protection is provided for the rare Kentish plover and little tern, which have their breeding grounds fenced off from 1 May to 15 August.
The little tern is about 24cm long and it is the world’s smallest tern - only half the size of the Arctic tern. You can recognise it by its white forehead and yellow beak with a black tip. The number of little terns has dropped in Denmark, and most of the little terns breed in the Wadden Sea area on Fanø and Rømø, where they nest in colonies on the beach.
Whimbrels are also called curlews. The largest wading bird in Denmark is the size of a crow, and it is recognised by its long, curled beak, which is quick to find lugworms and pull them up whole. In the spring morning hours it sings melodically across the heaths, meadows and sand dunes. It builds its nest directly on the ground in heath areas, preferably near meadows and pastures. It breeds on Fanø and particularly on Rømø.
Sandpipers (dunlin and knots) are one of Wadden Sea’s long-distance-birds. The knot, which breeds in Siberia and Greenland, migrates to western European coasts, whereas the dunlin flies all the way to West Africa. When they land in the Wadden Sea in April, May and June they are so exhausted that they need to double their weight before heading north to Siberia and Greenland. Already at the end of July and August they return to warmer skies.
The bar-tailed godwit often flies 4,000km nonstop in 48½ hours on its journey from West Africa to the Wadden Sea, where it “refuels”. The “fuel” consists of bristle worms, mussels and other benthic animals adding fat underneath the birds’ feathers for the remainder of their journey to Siberia and northern Scandinavia. They travel north in April to May and return south in August to September. The bar-tailed godwit is a wading bird, recognisable on account of its long, dark, slightly upward-curving beak and a light wedge on the back and a striped tail. The male in summer plumage is copper-red on the underside, while the female is greyish with a striped chest.
Redshank is one the most prevalent wading birds in the Wadden Sea area and it is seen all year round on Rømø. The greyish brown bird is recognised on its red-black beak and entirely red legs. With the white wedge on its back and white trailing edges to its wings, it is easily spotted when flying.
Oystercatcher is one of the most common breeding birds in the Wadden Sea, and it is particularly easy to spot the black and white bird on the coastal meadows of Rømø. The oystercatcher lives on worms from meadows and fields during the breeding season, and for the rest of the year they live on mussels which they open by hacking them into pieces with their beaks. Oystercatchers can eat up to 300 mussels a day.
A wealth of rare birds are regularly observed on the island. So bring your binoculars and watch out for white-tailed eagle, gull-billed tern or other species visiting Rømø.