A flock of 40 flamingos came under fire from a lone hunter in Qawra as they flew over Salina, according to a bird conser­vation group.

Birdlife said three flamingos were thought to have been killed and another three injured after the hunter shot at the migrating birds.

The army yesterday rescued an injured flamingo that was floundering in the sea off St Paul’s Bay while Birdlife volunteers kept watch over a second injured bird that remained at the Salina salt pans.

The flamingo rescued at sea could not fly because of its injuries and was taken to the Government’s veterinary service for treatment.

Discussions were under way with the animal welfare agency on how best to capture the second flamingo for rehabilitation.

The shooting incident happened on Wednesday in full view of passers-by, according to Birdlife.

The flock of greater flamingos was first spotted a day earlier in the south heading north, following the coastline as far as St Paul’s Bay. The birds may have roosted overnight near St Paul’s Islands.

On Wednesday morning, as the birds tried to continue their migration, they came under fire, Birdlife said.

The surviving flamingos were seen flying north towards Gozo.

Nicholas Barbara, Birdlife conservation manager, said the arrival of rare birds in Malta should draw tourists but instead it attracted poachers with guns.

“This is yet another example of how illegal hunting is widespread and not an isolated case as claimed by the authorities,” he said.

Birdlife passed on information to the police administrative law enforcement unit about the suspect’s identity.

Meanwhile, at the Salina natural reserve, Birdlife members observed a flock of seven grey herons, one of which had a visible gunshot wound.