BirdLife Malta records good year for breeding birds

BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said that the breeding records that the Maltese islands have seen this year are a testimony to what happens when nature is allowed to take it's course undisturbed  

Fledged young Short-eared Owl on Comino by Michael Zerafa
Fledged young Short-eared Owl on Comino by Michael Zerafa

This year has seen remarkable records for breeding birds in Malta with a number of different species recorded breeding successfully, both at BirdLife Malta’s nature reserves and also in different areas around the Maltese Islands.

“When left undisturbed, natures take its course, and these breeding records were a testimony to that. Proper management of Natura 2000 sites such as through allocating the management of such sites to NGOs, the designation of bird sanctuaries where no hunting is allowed, and proper law enforcement of hunting illegalities remain key to allowing such successes to be repeated in future years,” BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said.

Black-winged Stilts young by Aron Tannti
Black-winged Stilts young by Aron Tannti

BirdLife Malta Nature Reserves Manager Mark Gauci said that it all goes to demonstrate that given the right habitat and given adequate protection, birds will breed in Malta and the nature reserves managed by BirdLife Malta have been proving this year in year out. “We look forward to continuing our work on management and habitat restoration in a bid to attract more breeding species to the Maltese Islands,” he said.

The NGO said that the Peregrine Falcon had started breeding again in Malta’s southern cliffs with young birds seen in flight in mid-May. “Common Kestrels have also bred in two different locations in Gozo, with fledged young being noted during the first week of June. A pair of Short-eared Owl bred successfully again on Comino with the fledged young seen on the 14th of May, in what is a successful second breeding record in recent years.”

Black-winged Stilts at Għadira Nature Reserve by Aron Tanti
Black-winged Stilts at Għadira Nature Reserve by Aron Tanti

The group said that at the Ghadira Nature Reserve, the Black-winged Stilt remained the flagship breeding species. “Earlier this month two pairs of Black-winged Stilts successfully hatched four young each and the adult birds could be observed protecting their fledgelings in their distinct way of chasing any other birds they deem as a threat to their chicks, even those much bigger in size.”

The NGO said that these birds have been breeding on and off at it’s Mellieha reserve for the last nine years since 2011. “After missing last year’s spring, this year’s double success with eight healthy chicks is is a welcome relief.”

Spanish Sparrow male (Għasfur tal-Bejt) adult by Aron Tanti
Spanish Sparrow male (Għasfur tal-Bejt) adult by Aron Tanti

BirdLife also saw that two pairs of Little Ringed Plovers had a successful breeding season this spring at the Ghadira reserve, with each pair raising three young’s. It said that more chicks are expected with a second clutch of eggs currently under incubation. The group added that Common Kestrels have also bred in two different locations in Gozo, with ledged young being noted during the first week of June.

“A pair of Short-eared Owl bred successfully again on Comino with the fledged young seen on the 14th of May, in what is a successful second breeding record in recent years. Other birds making records The Barn Swallow has this year had a record breeding success on Gozo where our birdwatchers have observed at least 32 breeding pairs in different villages, all of which are being monitored on a regular basis,” BirdLife said.

Sardinian Warbler (Bufula Sewda) by Aron Tanti
Sardinian Warbler (Bufula Sewda) by Aron Tanti

The NGO said another important successful breeding attempt recorded this year was that of a female Spotless Starling with a male Common Starling. The group said Spotless Starlings are rare on the islands and that the last sighting of the bird was back in October 1947.

BirdLife has announced that while nature reserves are normally closed to the public during quiet summer months, it has decided to share “the wonderful natural spectacle of these newly-formed families during a special open day. The Ghadira reserve will be open on 29 June between 7am and 10am with free entry and no booking required. BirdLife said that staff will be on site to explain about the species breeding at the reserve and show the public around.  

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