BirdLife Malta said today that it had recovered a juvenile male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), one of Europe’s most threatened birds of prey. It was found with shotgun wounds by a member of the public in Gozo yesterday.

It said this was the second Pallid Harrier known to have been shot in the Maltese Islands in little more than half a year. In September last year, another juvenile male was recovered, again in Gozo. The young bird, making only its third journey between Europe and Africa, was not seriously injured, was sent to the Centro Recupero Fauna Selvatica, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Sicily.

There are estimated to be as few as 310 breeding pairs of Pallid Harriers left in Europe, where it is undergoing steep population decline since the 1970s.

“When you consider the small numbers of the bird left in Europe, the impact of having two even to individuals shot on their migration could be catastrophic,” the society said.

It added that Spring Watch volunteers its conservationists have recovered three shot protected birds and seen numerous others being targeted by illegal hunters in the countryside in the first 24 hours of the bird migration camp monitoring camp.

The other shot protected birds recovered since Sunday morning included a European Bee-eater found in Baħrija and a Common Cuckoo, found in Chadwick Lakes. On Saturday, BirdLife also recovered an illegally shot Common Kestrel from Gozo.

BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, Steve Micklewright, said, “Malta cannot expect maintain any credibility in the rest of Europe with regards to its commitments to protect migrating birds if the current administration continues down the path of removing restrictions on hunting without taking adequate steps to ensure that ‘protected’ birds really are protected from illegal hunting.”

BirdLife Malta again reminded the public of its voluntary scheme to recover injured wild birds and appealed for any information about illegal hunting and trapping to be reported to the police and to BirdLife.

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