The European Turtle Dove has been placed in the 'vulnerable' category in a report on threatened birds produced for the European Commission, a development which should have a bearing on whether hunting for this bird should be allowed in Spring, BirdLife said this morning.

Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said at a press conference that the fact that the turtle dove (Gamiema) was in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Birds was worrying.

“This new evidence is extremely worrying, turtle doves are in danger of disappearing from the wild in our lifetime”

The turtle dove is among two species hunted in the spring, the other being quail. 

Mr Barbara said turtle dove was previously listed in the category of 'least concern' but rapid population declines of 80% across Europe made it a vulnerable species.  

He pointed out that according to the Maltese legal framework that allows spring hunting, the government is obliged to take changes in the conservation status or birds into consideration when it considers whether to allow spring hunting. The decision would then be reviewed by the EU.

Steve Micklewright, Birdlife Malta director, said turtle doves migrating over Malta in spring were on their way to breed in Eastern Europe.

"In many countries, the hunting of turtle dove is completely banned and Malta is now the only EU country which allows it to be hunted in spring. This new information confirms more than ever that spring hunting is unsustainable. It has to be stopped before it is too late." 

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