News | Sunday, 07 June 2009
Bookmark and Share

First confirmed breeding bird in 15 years – BirdLife

BirdLife Malta yesterday announced that following this year’s spring hunting ban, a pair of common kestrels had successfully bred and raised at least three chicks in the Maltese islands, the first confirmed successful attempt in 15 years.
BirdLife released footage showing two of the chicks at the nest, exercising and stretching their wings in preparation for their first flights.
The conservation organisation said this was the first confirmed successful breeding record of a bird of prey in Malta since 1994 when a pair of kestrels bred in Comino bird sanctuary.
The Maltese Islands offer ideal habitats for breeding birds of prey. In nearby Pantelleria, falcons and eagles breed. But in previous years the cliffs of Ta’ Cenc offered sanctuary to breeding peregrine falcons and numerous pairs of barn owls were noted breeding.
However hunters have decimated these birds and made it next to impossible for any breeding success. Since 1994 several breeding attempts by kestrels in different locations in Gozo and Malta were recorded but the birds were shot each time. Last year, the first time spring hunting was banned, three young kestrels were also sighted in Gozo, but as the nest was never found, the breeding attempt was recorded as probable.
Over the last few weeks several rare breeding species such as kestrels and turtle dove were observed by field workers setting up territories, BirdLife said, performing breeding displays and building nests in different part of the islands.
“As a result of the spring hunting ban, many more wild birds migrating over Malta are surviving to continue their journey to European breeding grounds, while as expected some are remaining to breed here,” said Dr Andre Raine, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager.
BirdLife fieldworkers who have been observing the pair over the last weeks have already recorded shots fired at the male of the pair as it was hunting for food in nearby fields for its young. The male was yesterday seen with gunshot damage to the wing. In other areas where kestrels have remained into the summer season the organisation received reports of ‘rabbit’ hunters shooting at kestrels as they flew over them.
“The birds that have survived illegal hunting during the closed season this spring and managed to settle into their breeding grounds, thanks to the efforts of the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit, are now facing another threat. With the opening of the rabbit hunting season on 1 June, poachers are taking advantage of this loophole to illegally shoot Malta’s rare breeding birds,” Raine said.
The number of licensed rabbit hunters has soared by over 20% in the last 15 months, coinciding exactly with the first ban on spring hunting in 2008. BirdLife recently learned that hundreds of new rabbit hunting licenses have been issued by the police over the last couple of weeks.
BirdLife yesterday called on the Office of the Prime Minister and the police commissioner not to issue any more rabbit hunting licenses and that the ALE presence in the countryside continues through the vulnerable breeding period. The organization reiterated its demand that a dedicated wildlife crime unit is established to combat these crimes all year round.
Footage of the kestrel chicks can be seen on the BirdLife Malta website

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.


Tremors of unease


Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email