Sunday, November 4, 2012

A bird that finds Malta a hostile place

The jackdaw, known in Maltese as ċawla, was once a very common bird in the Maltese Islands but is not found here anymore.
But as bird hunting became more popular, the number of jackdaws in Malta started to decrease.Up to 150 years ago, it was so common that it bred in the Valletta fortifications.
A few colonies remained in inaccessible southern cliffs.
By 1932, the jackdaw had decreased to such an extent that Giuseppe Despott, a Maltese naturalist, predicted that unless severe legislation was introduced, this species would be exterminated.
The last Maltese jackdaw was shot in Gozo in April 1956.
Jackdaws feed by foraging on the ground and in trees.
They feed on small animals, especially ground-dwelling insects, and help to control their numbers.
Jackdaws also stand on the back of sheep and other mammals to pick up ticks and other external parasites. In urban areas, these birds feed on rubbish.
It is not a migratory bird and although the jackdaw breeds throughout most of Europe, it does not migrate and does not visit the Maltese Islands.
There are four races of jackdaw, three of which are found in Europe and one in North Africa.
The Maltese natural heritage would be richer if this interesting bird had to be reintroduced, but this is very difficult, if not impossible, since jackdaws have not visited the islands since 1956. 

This article was published in The Times on 12.09.2012

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