Little egrets have successfully bred in Malta for the first time. A pair of these majestic birds are currently raising four young birds on top of the aviaries of the Bird Park Malta in Burmarrad.

Kevin Mallia, who runs the park, has several captive bred little egrets nesting inside a large aviary, and the wild little egrets, which nest in colonies, have stayed and made the side of the large aviary their home.

The egrets built their nest out of twigs, latching it to a piece of giant reed that went through the side of the aviary. Mr Mallia noted the female brooding on June 6. All four eggs hatched successfully and the young birds are still being brooded by the female, both to protect them from the sun during the day and from the chill of the night.

This is not the first time egrets tried to breed on the same aviaries. In 2007, a pair of egrets had built a nest and laid three eggs and in 2008 another pair had built a nest, but none were successful as the adults were shot.

Earlier this year, a pair of Cattle Egrets, a smaller species of egrets, bred, and the eggs hatched but the adults met the same fate. This year, several night herons had also started building nests but unfortunately the adults were also killed.

Many of the egrets and herons that visit the park tend to go to feed at the Salina Saltpans and many of them are shot at as they fly out of the park or at Salina.

Mr Mallia hopes that this time round, the egrets will be spared. Several other wild birds have bred within the confines of his park, including the little bittern, coot, black winged stilt, little crake and great reed warbler. A large number of moorhens also breed within the confines of his park as do many other species, both common as well as exotic ones.

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