The area just outside Sønderho is in the middle of the tidal sea of Vadehavet – this attracts a lot of birds from time to time. The many wild birds represented a large potential value for people who were able to catch a significant number of birds. To make the hunting for the birds more effective four large bird traps were built around Fanø the traps were called fuglekøje.
The inspiration for these bird traps were apparently found on the islands in Friesland and the Netherlands where this kind of traps were common.
The trap consists of a small lake and six small ditches stretching out from the lake – these were where the birds would get caught.
The lake might have attracted a few ducks by itself – but to increase the number of wild ducks coming by the owner of the birds trap would put some food out on the lake and use some tame ducks to attract wild ducks out at sea. The tame ducks would then bring the wild ducks to the little lake and the food would lead the wild ducks to the ditches.
The wild ducks were then trapped in the ditches and were quickly killed by getting their neck broken. The hunting method was very effective and in some years the owner of the bird trap caught thousands of ducks. The record came in 1886 and 1887 when 8-9,000 ducks were caught each year. The ducks were mainly sold to butcher shops in Copenhagen. The price of a duck could be 0.75 DKK – which is about 0.1€. It may not sound like a lot but back then a loaf of bread coast only 0.05 DKK and an unskilled laborer made 0.21 DKK an hour. Hence the total annual income from the trap these years were in the thousands of DKK which were a small fortune.
The trap was quite effective – maybe a bit too effective and by 1930 the use of this kind of birth traps were made illegal. The trap was left behind and it was slowly decaying until it was decided to restore it – at first it was just used for marking birds. Today it is still occasionally used for catching birds and marking them but it is also a tourist attraction where you can see how the people used to catch birds a hundred years ago.
It is pretty fascinating to see the old trap – and there is a view tower at the trap as well from where you will have a great view of the shore line next to the trap.
There are a couple of different bird traps you can visit along the east coast of Fanø – the side closest to the mainland. The traps are all called something with fuglekøje and you can see signs from the main road to the different traps. The one we visited was Sønderho Gamle Fuglekøje gamle means old and this bird trap is the oldest of the bird traps on Fanø dating back to 1866.