Maltese falcons, poaching victims, recovered and freed

This 19 December 2019 video from Malta says about itself:

Five rehabilitated Common Kestrels and a Merlin released back into the wild

In the past days, we released another six rehabilitated birds back into the wild.

All six falcons – five Common Kestrels and a Merlin – were illegal hunting casualties recovered earlier during this year’s autumn hunting season. Following some weeks under our care, the government vet gave her go-ahead for the birds to be released.

All the Common Kestrels (Spanjulett in Maltese) were picked up by members of the public over a period of less than three weeks. The first one was found on 12th October in Girgenti and it was confirmed shot, with several internal pellets and a fractured left wing. The second Common Kestrel was found in Għaxaq on 15th October with a fracture to its left wing. Five days later, on October 20th, another shot Common Kestrel was found by a member of the public at Għar Lapsi. It was suffering from a broken wing and even had a break to its bill. The following day, the 21st of October, another Common Kestrel with a broken left wing was picked up by the public at Chadwick Lakes. And on 29th October yet another Common Kestrel was found at Fomm ir-Riħ. This bird was found weak and underweight and was also confirmed shot after being taken to the vet.

The Merlin (Maltese name: Seqer ta’ Denbu) was the only one of the released birds which was recovered by police. It was found on Gozo on 19th October. Following a visit to the government veterinarian, it was confirmed shot, with a fracture to one of its wings.

All these birds were released on Monday 16th December on Comino, a protected bird sanctuary. The reason why we release such birds on the island of Comino, where no hunting is permitted, is for them to be given the opportunity to acclimatize before moving on to continue with their migration journey. All birds were ringed before release.

Common Kestrels are common and regular migrants which can be seen all year round. In autumn they are mostly seen between September and November. The ones released on Comino earlier this week will either continue their migration, or they may overwinter in Malta instead, before migrating up north once again to their breeding grounds.

On the other hand Merlins are very scarce visitors to Malta, with only a handful being seen every year, so the successful rehabilitation and release of this species is particularly special. As for the movements of this bird after release, they do not overwinter in Malta, so it may try to continue on with its migration. However, given the mild winter conditions and plentiful prey (i.e. small birds), this bird may decide to overwinter in Malta as well before its spring migration north.

Footage by Svitlana Shevchuk, editing by Jose Luque Montero.

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