BirdLife Malta is claiming that a protected raptor was illegally shot on Sunday, a few days before the autumn hunting season kicked off.

Hunting is being allowed from today until the end of January.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NGO called on the government to protect birds during migration, noting that as summer came to an end, birds in northern Europe were preparing to migrate to Africa.

Most of the migrating birds would be on their first-ever migration after hatching in spring, it said. 

Video: Birdlife Malta

The first flocks of herons, bee-eaters and birds of prey have already been spotted in Malta, followed by "various gunshots", it said.

“The first illegal hunting casualty has already reached our offices. An Eleonora’s Falcon that was found injured in Marsalforn on Sunday was taken to the vet and fortunately, was recommended for rehab after it was operated upon”, BirdLife's head of conservation Nicholas Barbara said on Wednesday.

“Enforcement of biodiversity protection, especially birds, will remain the biggest hurdle in solving the problem of those that think they are above the law.

"A wild rabbit hunting season during a closed bird hunting season allows a smokescreen for those who want to target protected birds from the first days of migration," he added.

People can report suspected illegality to BirdLife Malta on 7925 5697 or to the Environmental Protection Unit on 119. 

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