Five recovered birds freed in Malta

This 4 June 2020 video says about itself:

Three birds of prey and two turtle-doves rehabilitated and released back into the wild

On the 15th May 2020, BirdLife Malta was able to release five rehabilitated birds back into the wild. They had all suffered gunshot injuries during their spring migration back to their breeding grounds further north in Europe.

The birds released were a Common Kestrel which was illegally shot in Girgenti and picked up on 29th March, an illegally shot Lesser Kestrel found on 5th April at Mtarfa, an illegally shot Marsh Harrier retrieved on 16th April from Salina, and two illegally shot Turtle doves picked up on 20th and 21st April from Binġemma and Armier, Mellieħa.

All of these protected birds were retrieved by BirdLife Malta after initially being found by members of the public. The birds were then examined by the government veterinarian, who confirmed the cause of their injuries and recommended rehabilitation as the next best step for their recovery. The birds spent between three and seven weeks in rehabilitation, but the work is worth it as it results in birds such as these ones having a second opportunity of reaching their breeding grounds.

All of the birds were fitted with a BirdLife Malta ring beforehand, in order to track their movements if they’re seen or found again. Ringing can help guide conservation work as we can learn important details, such as where they may migrate through, settle to breed, where they may overwinter, longevity of the species, and so on.

15th May was also Endangered Species Day, and to mark this occasion, the two Turtle doves were released at Għadira Nature Reserve whilst streamed live on Facebook! Turtle doves are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ according to the IUCN, so every bird counts when it comes to ensuring that this species does not reach ‘Endangered’ status.

All of the birds of prey were released on Comino, which is a designated bird sanctuary and provides them with an ideal place to get accustomed back in the wild, before restarting their migration.

BirdLife Malta would like to thank the people who contacted us after finding these birds. The work that we do would not be possible if it was not for the support from members of the public.

Footage by BirdLife Malta, editing by Nathaniel Attard.

Migratory turtle doves tagged in Malta

This 26 May 2020 video says about itself:

In May 2020, soon after the spring hunting season in Malta came to an end, BirdLife Malta ringed and satellite-tagged three Turtle-doves as part of an international study aimed at investigating the migratory movements of the European Turtle-dove.

The Turtle-doves, two females and a male, were each fitted with a 5-gram solar-powered satellite tag sponsored by our German BirdLife partners NABU.

The birds were captured from the Comino Bird Observatory operated by the BirdLife Malta Ringing Scheme.

Turtle-dove Marija was fitted with satellite tag #345 and was released on 1st May 2020. Turtle-dove Hope was fitted with satellite tag #348 and was released on 4th May. Turtle-dove Virginijus was fitted with satellite tag #349 and released on 5th May.

Following her release, the first Turtle-dove travelled to Gozo where she spent the night. Satellite transmission went dead immediately next morning. Marija’s last position was registered from Gozo at 7:15am. Given reports of illegal hunting on Gozo received from the same day, we very much fear she was illegally shot down before she could continue her journey further north.

The other two satellite-tagged Turtle-doves, Hope and Virginijus, immediately took off on their migratory journeys. One reached Sicily by 11pm on the same day, whilst the other reached Sicily two days later!

We continue to follow them in earnest to see where they will settle for the breeding season!

You too can follow the migratory journeys of these two Turtle-doves along with that of Francesco, who was satellite-tagged in 2017, on a live map developed by our partners NABU (BirdLife Germany).

To read more about our Turtle-dove satellite-tagging project visit here.

Footage by BirdLife Malta, editing by Nathaniel Attard.

Yelkouan shearwater chick hatched, Malta video

This 21 May 2020 video from Malta says about itself

Early May is the peak time in the Yelkouan breeding season for hatching and many new faces have emerged in the colonies over the past couple of weeks.

The Yelkouan Shearwater chicks first enter the world damp and fragile, but soon dry off to reveal their grey downy coat which will keep them warm until they grow their flight feathers. In the first few days of its life, the parents are very attentive to ensure survival of the chick, at least one parent will remain with the chick to brood it whilst it continues to develop.

By the end of the first week, the chick is left to fend for itself, whilst the parents forage for food. The chick is provided with a meal at least once each night. Foraging trips during early chick-rearing are shorter, so the adults can return more frequently to feed the demanding chick.

Editing by Katarzyna Pacon.

Birds in nature reserve in Malta

This 11 May 2020 video says about itself:

Birds at Salina Nature Reserve this spring

Here is a short video edit with footage of different birds we’ve observed at Salina since the start of spring. The video includes shots of different species such as Ruff, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Barn Swallow and Yellow Wagtail.

At the moment we are making an extra effort to share photos and footage of flora and fauna at our reserves since unfortunately these natural sites are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope it won’t be long before we can all start to go out again to enjoy the beauty of nature in spring!

Footage by Manuel Mallia, editing by Nathaniel Attard.

Recovered black kite freed in Malta

This 2 May 2020 video says about itself:

This Black Kite was recovered on the 24th March 2020 from Żebbuġ in Gozo. It was found by the Gozo Police following a report made by a member of the public. The bird was handed over to BirdLife Malta and eventually taken to the government veterinarian to be examined. Fortunately, it was just exhausted from its migration journey and had no other injuries.

Following a couple of weeks with BirdLife Malta during which it regained its strength, the protected bird of prey was ready to be released. Black Kites are highly-prized illegal hunting targets so we took it to Comino, a protected bird sanctuary, to release it there so that it could hopefully continue with its migration safely. The raptor was ringed prior to being released.

Black Kites (Astun Iswed in Maltese) are regular migrants, both in spring and autumn, although more common during the autumn. In spring they are seen in March and April.

Footage by BirdLife Malta. Editing by Nathaniel Attard.

Disoriented Baillon’s crake freed in Malta

This 2 May 2020 video from Malta says about itself:

Disoriented Baillon’s Crake released back into the wild

Occasionally we are called to recover birds in strange circumstances. Bird migration can be a stressful experience for many birds, especially when along their way they find cities, buildings and man-made structures which at times renders their lives more difficult. Many birds, such as crakes and moorhens, prefer to migrate through the night to avoid being caught by predators, and it is often the case they end up in the middle of our urban areas completely disoriented, especially with light pollution.

This Baillon’s Crake (Maltese name: Gallozz tal-Faxxi) is one of such birds we have recovered during this spring migration, after it was found within the courtyard of a residence in Paola. Luckily the person who found this bird did recognise this is a wild bird which does not belong in a courtyard and called upon us to retrieve it. After a quick check by the vets, the bird was actually found to be in a fit condition so it was just a matter of it being ringed and released in a more suitable wetland habitat such as that of Għadira Nature Reserve.

Given their cryptic nature of hiding in vegetation and the fact that they migrate night, Baillon’s Crakes are hard to spot and we are uncertain of how many of them migrate through the Maltese Islands. It was a sure honour for us to return this healthy yet disoriented bird back to nature – definitely one we don’t get to see that often.

Footage by BirdLife Malta. Editing by Nathaniel Attard.

Yelkouan shearwaters nesting in Malta

This 14 April 2020 video says about itself:

Pairs of Yelkouan Shearwater across the Maltese Islands are busy incubating their eggs. Incubation lasts between 50-52 days, during which each partner will take 4-5 day shifts caring for their single egg.

Nest duty is more than just sitting on an egg. Constant cleaning and rearranging of nesting material (which isn’t much for Yelkouans) takes place. The egg must be moved occasionally to facilitate development, not an easy task when you don’t have hands!

Sometimes the egg is left alone for periods of time, this is known as egg neglect. This is a common behaviour in some seabird species but especially shearwaters that depend on unreliable food sources that are often far away from their colonies. In this case it was a storm that delayed the return of the second partner so the bird on nest duty must have become fed up and left to feed.

Editing by Katarzyna Pacon.