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Malta: the return of 'common' birds

…it is vital that a Wildlife Crime Unit is set up in Malta

A new report released by BirdLife Malta (BirdLife in Malta) highlighted how 2009 has been a remarkable year for breeding birds in Malta. 
The results of the ‘2009 Rare Breeding Bird Report’ showed that nine rare breeding species, most of which are relatively common in other countries, increased their overall distribution in the Maltese islands compared to 2008, with a further four species recorded breeding in 2009 but not recorded last year.

The highlights of the study were the first confirmed breeding records of two pairs of Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus in 15 years and the colonisation of Malta by a species new to the island – Pallid Swift Apus pallidus. The first confirmed breeding record of a pair of Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea in almost 100 years and only the fourth confirmed breeding record of a pair of Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus were other important breeding records.

The report includes all rare breeding bird records that adhered to the strict criteria laid out by the European Bird Census Council and by BirdLife Malta for very rare breeding bird records.

BirdLife considers the ban of spring hunting during the past two years playing an important role in the establishment of these species due to less disturbance during the initial periods of breeding.“The results highlight how important the ban on spring hunting over the last two years has been for the rare breeding species in Malta. Although illegal hunting was widespread, especially in the south during spring migration, the hunting intensity was much lower over this period due to the ban. Yet, with spring hunting now banned, the biggest problem for rare breeding birds is illegal shooting during the rabbit hunting season opened on 1st June”, said Dr Andre Raine, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager.

Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at the BirdLife European Division, commented: ”We are pleased to see these birds are returning to Malta, as in most other countries these species belong to the common birds! This is a great success, for BirdLife and the EU Birds Directive - which Malta finally seems willing to comply to”.

Unfortunately, in June and July, BirdLife Malta still received ten shot protected birds, including some of the birds that bred in Malta this summer.

“Despite those killings, this year has seen very positive changes, with Maltese villages hosting new colonies of breeding Common Swift, while the countryside is providing the food needed to raise young Common Kestrel. However, it is vital that a Wildlife Crime Unit is set up in Malta to provide rare birds with protection throughout the year, particularly during the breeding months in summer when these birds are particularly vulnerable to illegal hunting” concluded Dr Raine.

4th July 2014