A NEW red-footed falcon couple – a bird species that was practically extinct in Slovakia – was seen nesting near Trnava for the first time in 40 years. This is the third such couple currently known to exist in the country.

“A colleague who lives in that area notified us of a red-footed falcon couple living there, and subsequently spotted a male bird there,” Jozef Chavko of the Raptor Protection of Slovakia (RPS) organisation told the TASR newswire in mid June. “We went to check the area and after two days, we saw a lovely couple of this precious gem of Slovak nature in an abandoned magpie nest. I watched with bated breath at how the male brought food to the female, who, judging by how she was acting, had only been roosting for a few days.”

The last time a red-footed falcon couple was seen nesting in the Trnava area was in the late 1970s, and as many as 60 red-footed falcon couples could be seen nesting in Slovakia just 20 years ago. The species has all but vanished from Slovakia due to intensive farming.

According to Roman Slobodník, an expert coordinator for an EU-backed project to preserve the species in Slovakia, RPS has been working on the project in conjunction with its Hungarian peers since 2012. Thanks to such projects, there are now around 1,200 to 1,300 red-footed falcon couples in Hungary, and their numbers are increasing.

RPS’ Lucia Deutschová said that Slovakia’s bird population will benefit from positive developments in Hungary. “We could say with a little exaggeration that finding this couple near Trnava means for us what the discovery of the Higgs boson means for physicists,” said Deutschová.