Saving Mediterranean seabirds

This video is called Birds of Lesvos, Greece.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partners working across the Mediterranean to protect seabirds

By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 20/02/2015 – 15:07

Seabird and marine conservation experts are gathering this week in Hammamet, Tunisia to discuss the current knowledge of seabirds and the key threats they are facing.

BirdLife is represented at the workshop by its Partners within the region, including Amis des Oiseaux- BirdLife in Tunisia, and BirdLife Morocco (GREPOM) and from its European Partners SEO/BirdLife in Spain, BirdLife Malta and the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) in Greece. This workshop, organised by the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) and MedMaravis, provides an excellent opportunity for experts across the Mediterranean, to share their experiences tackling seabird conservation.

Marguerite Tarzia, BirdLife’s European Marine Conservation Officer said ‘‘Mediterranean Seabirds do truly face pan-Mediterranean threats, such as overfishing, bycatch, invasive predators, habitat destruction because of ill-planning and marine pollution. International meetings such as this one are the most effective way to collaborate on protecting this incredibly rich sea.’’ As a key follow up to this meeting, BirdLife in conjunction with BirdLife Malta will hold another International workshop on Mediterranean Seabird Conservation on the 23rd-27th November, which will focus on protecting seabirds across National boundaries and international waters of the Mediterranean and will examine the key threats and the most effective routes and mechanisms for protection.

BirdLife’s knowledge of and experience with seabirds is vital to effectively tackle conservation at a regional scale. Dr Benjamin Metzger, Head of Research at BirdLife Malta said, “We have just finalised three years of intensive research in Malta tracking Yelkouan Shearwaters, and now looking into identifying those sites which need to be designated for the conservation of this species. The project will be overseeing the designation of the very first Marine Special Protected Area sites for Malta.”

In 2014, Spain announced the creation of 39 new Special Protection Areas at sea, based on SEO/BirdLife’s marine IBA inventory. This dramatically increased the amount of sea being protected in Spain. In relation to protecting the most threatened seabirds, such as the Balearic Shearwater however, there remains much to be done across the region. Pep Arcos, SEO/BirdLife Marine Coordinator, said “Despite recent research on the Balearic Shearwater suggesting a larger population than previously expected, but this does not reflect an increase, only a better assessment. On the contrary, this species is still suffering a sharp decline, and the mounting evidence points to bycatch as the main cause. If we do not tackle this threat, the species will be lost within the next century.”

The accidental capture of seabirds in fishing gear remains a key threat to many Mediterranean seabirds. BirdLife is working  to understand the scale of the problem and begin to look for solutions to prevent seabirds being killed. While some work has been done in small areas to quantify the problem, at a regional level little is known about how many birds are caught and there has never been a concerted approach to tackling this issue across the Mediterranean.

BirdLife has recently launched the European Seabird Task Force to begin to tackle seabird bycatch in the region in a consistent and collaborative manner. Bringing our international experience from the Albatross Task Force, which works in southern Africa and South America, our expert team of observers are working collaboratively with artisanal demersal longline fishermen in the Spanish Mediterranean to understand the problem and to find effective and appropriate solutions to reduce the numbers of seabirds killed. BirdLife aims to expand the scope of this work across the Mediterranean.

BirdLife’s Partners in the Mediterranean are extremely active in seabird conservation, and many of them will be presenting the results of their work this week. Check it out!

·         The Hellenic Society for Ornithology (HOS) are surveying seabirds in Greece following on from a recent LIFE project on seabirds, and working on management of protected marine sites and monitoring of seabirds at sensitive development sites such as Athens Airport.

·         BirdLife Slovenia (DOPPS) is completing an EU LIFE project (SI-MARINE) to identify marine sites for protection for the Mediterranean Shag.

·         In Italy, LIPU is identifying marine Important Bird Areas for breeding Scopoli’s Shearwaters.

·         In Croatia, BIOM is mapping wintering seabirds along its coastline to assist protected area designation and working on island restoration projects for the breeding Common Tern

·         SEO/BirdLife has been championing the conservation of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater, with monitoring of colonies in the Balearic Islands as well as working on marine protected area management through the recent INDEMARES project. Currently, with BirdLife, they are implementing the Seabird Task Force-along a section of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

·         BirdLife Malta is currently completing its EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, which will see the identification of marine Important Bird Areas (marine IBAs) for the endemic Yelkouan Shearwater both within and beyond Malta’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

For further information on BirdLife’s seabird and marine work, and our upcoming workshop, visit our website or contact Marguerite Tarzia – the European Marine Conservation Officer.

Referendum about bird killing in Malta

This is a video about migratory birds on Malta.

From Wildlife Extra:

Historic decision to allow a referendum about hunting in Malta

Birdlife Malta has reported on the Maltese Constitutional Court’s recent positive decision to allow a referendum on spring hunting to take place.

Spring hunting accounts for the deaths of thousands of European migratory birds as they pass over the islands on their journey from Africa to their breeding grounds in northern Europe.

It has long been been the subject of mass campaigns, with supporters congregating from all over Europe to disrupt the hunters’ activities.

Anti-hunters have often being targetted by the hunting lobby with threats, verbal abuse and sometimes physical violence.

Birdlife Malta hails the referendum decision as a clear win for democracy and the campaiging of the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting which gathered the support and signatures of over 40,000 Maltese voters.

These ordinary Maltese people want to see change happen in the country and have pledged to make the Maltese environment better.

Romina Tolu, Campaign Coordinator for the Coalition says, “The process which has led to this decision by the courts was a particularly lengthy one, in which the hunting lobby tried to delay and mislead the people and the courts time and time again.

“It is now crystal clear that the legislation in question is not an EU treaty obligation and it is more than evident that the hunting lobby were clutching at loose strings from the start.”

Birdlife Malta believes that a decision such as this, which places power in the hands of the Maltese electorate to express themselves on an important national issue, is a positive opportunity for democracy in Malta.

It says this can see an end to concessions and backroom deals they say have been made between politicians and the hunting lobby at the cost of our migratory birds.

The Coalition now waits for the date of the referendum to be set by the President, following which it will launch its referendum campaign.

For more information visit Birdlife Malta.

Last weekend, 250,648 Maltese (75% of the population) headed to the polls to voice their opinion during a national referendum which proposed a ban on spring hunting. The majority took 50.9% of the votes and only won with an extremely narrow margin of 2.220 votes against the ban – allowing the contentious spring hunting season to continue as before: here.

Malta’s Secretive Seabirds

Originally posted on Life+ Malta Seabird Project:

P1110684 Ed Drewitt and Ben Metzger admiring the views from the top of a Scopoli’s Shearwater colony

Standing on the golden limestone cliffs that were once the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, I paused to appreciate these sheer vertical forms on the island of Gozo in Malta in later summer this year. Metres away Birdlife Malta’s seabird scientists Dr Ben Metzger (head of seabird research) and Paulo Lago Barreiro were showing myself and Caroline Rance (also Birdlife Malta) how to look for signs of something very special living here. We could see some splashes of poo and a few white feathers; kneeling down on the hard, crusty rocks we peered with torches into a shallow burrow that had been scarped out beneath a huge boulder. At the end in a larger space a large ball of fluff shuffled and revealed a glistening eye and beak. This was a seabird, a baby in…

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Young stork killed in Malta by poacher

This video by the BBC’s Chris Packham is called Malta – Massacre on Migration (Episode 1).

From Wildlife Extra:

Tempers flare as Malta temporarily bans legal hunting season

Following the illegal shooting of a rare juvenile white stork, and the growing body of support for the campaign against illegal hunting, the Maltese government has decided to temporarily close the autumn legal hunting season until 10 October.

This move is to prevent illegal hunters using the legal hunting season as a cover to shoot endangered birds.

“The urge to target these protected species is something we continue seeing each and every time rare visitors, such as storks, grace these islands,” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager.

The ringed stork was a migrant from a reintroduction project in Udine, Italy that was set up by the local community to help stork repopulate the area.

“This is a loss of great significance as we would have expected the bird to return to Fagagna in a few years to breed,” said Bruno Dentesani the project’s scientific ringer.

“This was its first migration, I’m very sad to hear of this news.”

The government’s decision was welcomed by Birdlife Malta, whose Executive Director, Steve Micklewright said: The government has repeatedly stated that it will not tolerate the illegal hunting of protected species of bird.”

“The announcement shows the government are prepared to take appropriate steps when hunters behave without any respect for the law, as they have done in recent days.”

However, hunters opposed to the government’s decision organised a protest march in Valletta which was attended by up to 200. Later on in the day at least 13 volunteer birdwatchers were then attacked at Buskett as they watched birds coming in to the woodlands at Buskett to rest for the night.

It is believed one elderly man was attacked by about four hunters, his camera was stolen and he was punched in the face and suffered facial injuries. Another sustained a leg injury after he was hit by a rock thrown by a member of the group of hunters.

Geoffrey Saliba, BirdLife Malta President, said: “We understand that those that attacked our volunteers had joined in the demonstration in Valletta earlier in the day and it appears that the attack was planned at that illegal protest.

“No one has been arrested as a result of the attack, but we understand that the volunteers might be able to recognise some of their attackers.”

Read Chris Packham’s thoughts about Malta’s hunting season HERE.

Watch Chris Packham’s films about Malta HERE.

Malta migratory bird massacre, filmed by Chris Packham

This video is called Illegal finch trapping, spring 2014, Malta.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham to film the indiscriminate shooting of migrating birds on Malta

April 2014: Heading a self-funded camera crew, wildlife presenter Chris Packham will be filing nightly reports on YouTube of the events in Malta, as thousands of illegal hunters kill all manner of migrating birds as they pass over the island on their way from Africa to their European breeding grounds. These films, which Packham says on his website ( will not make comfortable viewing, will be shown from Easter Monday until Saturday, 26 April.

The annual spring slaughter on Malta, which last year involved at least 24 protected species, accounts for the deaths of honey buzzards, golden orioles, ospreys, cuckoos, night herons and black storks, among many others, and jeopardises future populations of these birds, which are either officially endangered or in severe decline here and in other parts of Europe.

In addition, many smaller species of birds such as finches, are trapped in nets, which also often account for the deaths of other animals accidentally caught in them.

On his website, Packham says of his team: “Our mission is to generate a wider awareness of this heinous practice with frank and factual reports from the frontline where our much loved migrant birds are being shot in huge numbers. It will not be pretty, the species killed include many UK favourites and rarities and the hunters are infamous for being confrontational and violent. I don’t care, this is not a holiday, it’s an attempt to bring this forgotten issue to a wider public attention and then to offer a couple of ways the viewers can actually do something to effect positive change.

“Please try to watch our broadcasts and please publicise them as widely as possible. I believe that people will be truly horrified when they see what happens on Malta to ‘our birds’, I believe they care and they will do something to change it.”

Existing Maltese laws that cover the hunting season, which is between 12 and 30 April, allow strictly regulated hunting of turtle doves and quail only, but these are openly flouted by local hunters. Following its entry into the EU in 2004, Malta was expected to curtail the spring hunting of turtle doves and quail, in line with the EU Birds Directive that prohibits the killing of such wild birds during the breeding or spring migration season. When this was not enforced by 2007, the European Courts of Justice ordered the country’s government not to open the spring hunting season in 2008. However, to date this has not happened. The illegal hunting of other birds, such as raptors, is not prosecuted in the country as there are limited resources to police it, and there is a strong pro-hunting lobby.

Birdlife Malta organises a Spring Watch camp, supported by ordinary people from all over Europe, to monitor bird migration on Malta and Gozo during the spring hunting season and prevent illegal hunting and trapping. Members of the camp have often been targeted by hunters with aggressive abuse and criminal damage.

For more information visit

To see Chris Packham’s films visit YouTube at 9.00pm UK time between 21 and 26 April.

See also here.

The video diary of events at the illegal spring hunting season on the Mediterranean island of Malta became an audio diary on Saturday 26 April, informing viewers that Chris Packham was arrested by Maltese police and held for four hours of questioning: here.

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Storm petrels nesting in Tunisia?

This video says about itself:

10 Sep 2012

Video from the EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project of a Mediterranean Storm Petrel chick being visited on its nest by one of its parents.

From North African Birds blog:

February 16, 2014 by

Ouni, R., Durand, J.-P., Mayol Serra, J., Essetti, I., Thevenet, M., & Renou, S. (2012). Nidification possible de l’Océanite tempête Hydrobates pelagicus à l’île Zembra, Tunisie. Alauda 80(4): 301–304.   PDF


Possible breeding of European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus at Zembra Island, Tunisia.

After investigations over five years, the first record of 6 individuals in late June 2012 suggests the possibility that this species breeds on Zembra and Zembretta archipelago in Tunisia.
Related papers:

Bourgeois, K., Ouni, R., Pascal, M., Dromzée, S., Fourcy, D., & Abiadh, A. (2013). Dramatic increase in the Zembretta Yelkouan shearwater breeding population following ship rat eradication spurs interest in managing a 1500-year old invasionBiological Invasions 15(3) : 475-482.

Revealing the steep decline of European Storm Petrels at western Scotland’s largest colony: here.

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