Birding in the Fascinating Republic of Malta

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The Republic of Malta consists of an archipelago of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea of Southern Europe. With its warm Mediterranean climate and varied habitats, Malta is a superb birding destination. As the islands lie along one of the main European-African migration flyways, it is an ideal location to observe annual bird migrations. The country is also rich in history and culture, having been occupied by a number of ancient cultures through its history, including Sicilians, Romans, Phoenicians and Byzantines, all of which left their mark on the island, making it a fascinating place to explore.

BirdLife Malta count stands at 384 species, of which 21 are regular breeders. These include the Cory’s Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, European Storm-petrel, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Common Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Short-toed Lark and Collared Dove.

More than 170 species of migrating birds from at least 47 countries pass over Malta during migration seasons, with some of them staying over for the winter period. BirdLife Malta has a ringing station and bird observatory on the small rocky island of Comino, which is designated as a Bird Sanctuary. An abundance of migratory birds are attracted to Comino, including Rock Thrushes and Black-eared Wheaters. In spring, birders may see Garden Warblers, Icterine Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, Pied Flycatchers and Woodchat Shrikes. The island of Gozo has striking sheer cliffs to the southwest that are home to large numbers of breeding Cory’s Shearwaters.

The non-governmental organization BirdLife Malta, as a partner of BirdLife International, was established in January of 1962, first as a study group and going on to become an agency dedicated to the protection of Malta’s birds. As is the case in many countries around the world, man is fast encroaching on the habitats of birds with no regard for their welfare. As Malta is an island-nation which is already densely-populated, BirdLife Malta faces a monumental task when dealing with habitat destruction through the building of hotels, golf courses, new roads and other developments, as well as defending the birds against hunting and trapping which is common on the islands.

Education through schools, special campaigns, the media and bird-specific publications, as well as an active junior volunteer membership are some of the ways that BirdLife Malta are raising awareness about the plight of the country’s birds. They also manage the Ghadira and Is-Simar wetland nature reserves and have various projects to reclaim and rejuvenate degraded habitat. Moreover their continued research is instrumental in identifying more areas for protection. BirdLife Malta also works along with Maltese authorities in drafting and promoting bird-protection legislation and then work with the police to enforce these laws. All these measures are taken by a team of dedicated bird-lovers who want to ensure that the rich bird-life of Malta is protected for current and future generations.

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