A juvenile Mediterranean Osprey fitted with a satellite tracking device in Corsica as part of a project studying the dispersal and migratory movements of these protected birds of prey has gone missing after arriving in Malta at the end of August, Birdlife said.
Over the last week, BirdLife Malta ornithologists have been helping researchers from the project to reconstruct what happened to the young bird using data downloaded from the tracking device via the Global Position System (GPS) satellites used to “communicate” with the bird.
The sophisticated tracking devices used in this study not only allow researchers to see where the bird is, they also measure and record physiological data such as body temperature, giving a much more detailed picture of the bird’s behaviour and physical condition.
The GPS track shows that the Osprey flew south after leaving Sicily, arriving in the Malta Freeport area in the south of the island in the afternoon on August 24. It roosted overnight, possibly on top of a ship or a crane.
The next morning, the bird left its roost just before 7am, heading north in the direction of Delimara, shortly after which the signal from the tracking device was lost. The bird’s body temperature at the time of last signal indicates that it was alive up until communication was lost.
Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager said, “The picture that emerges is very clear. Delimara is notorious for illegal hunting, with numerous reports every year of protected birds, including Ospreys, being shot from the peninsula or from boats close to the coast. It seems likely that this Osprey suffered the same fate and was shot at some time after 7am on the 25th August.”
Despite little hope remaining for the bird’s survival BirdLife Malta appealed to anyone with any information to come forward. “It’s possible that the tracking device might have been removed and that someone found it and picked it up,” said Mr Barbara, “any new information could help.”
BirdLife said it had been receiving reports of illegal hunting in the Delimara area since early August, and this is not the only Osprey to have been shot in Malta already this Autumn.
Last Sunday, on the first day of the hunting season, witnesses reported another Osprey being killed close to Dingli Cliffs as it perched on a telegraph pole just after dark. And the previous week, birdwatchers reported seeing a third Osprey flying with an injury Birdlife said.
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