Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beautiful Flamingos

The Għadira Nature Reserve is again open to the public. Those visiting the reserve last weekend had the pleasure of watching two juvenile flamingoes feeding and flying around the protected wetland.

The two flamingoes are the ones that were saved by BirdLife in early September. The two birds were migrating south but probably could not keep up with the rest of the flock and had to land. The first bird landed at Paradise Bay on September 4th. The second bird was found in a private garden at Birżebbuġa five days later.

In the past few years flamingoes made it several times to the headlines usually because one or more were shot while migrating over the Maltese islands. Flamingoes used to be rare migrants in the central Mediterranean but now we are seeing several flocks every year especially in early autumn.

What we are seeing is the result of new flamingo colonies which are establishing themselves in various wetlands just to the north of Malta in Sicily.

Italian ornithologists, monitoring the island’s birds have, after an absence of many decades, found flamingos breeding again in saline marshes along the south-eastern coast of Sicily.
The ornithologists said that within a year of stricter bird protection laws coming into force and better enforcement the number of species of birds breeding in Sicily increased tenfold.

In Italy hunting is permitted as long as it does not conflict with the needs for the conservation of wildlife and does not cause actual damage to agricultural production. Hunting for most birds is allowed only from the first of October until the end of December. A few species can be hunted from the last Sunday of September and for a small number hunting is allowed till the end of January. No hunting is allowed in spring when the birds are preparing to breed.

Italian legislation, as stipulated by EU Directives prohibits all forms of bird trapping.
Furthermore the law allows the prohibition of hunting of certain species if their populations are declining or if they are threatened by sudden environmental conditions such as bad weather or disease.

In spite of what Maltese hunters say local bird protection legislation is too liberal and furthermore enforcement still leaves much to be desired. Spring hunting and bird trapping are presently the two main threats to Maltese birdlife and the rest of nature. Hunting in spring kills birds returning to breed and every bird shot in spring is a nest less. Moreover the presence of hunters disturbs birds attempting to breed even if these are not shot at.

This article was published in The Times of Malta on 6 November 2014. 

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