New records for breeding birds at BirdLife Malta nature reserves

July 7, 2016 2:44 pm

BirdLife Malta is celebrating a record-breaking number of breeding Black-winged Stilts (Fras-servjent) at Għadira Nature Reserve, since the first signs of courtship behaviour and nest building were observed in 2008.

This is a flagship species for Malta with breeding exclusively recorded at BirdLife Malta’s nature reserves.

This year, Għadira Nature Reserve saw three pairs of Black-winged Stilts breed successfully, each producing four chicks. This has been the highest number of successfully breeding pairs of this distinctive black-and-white wader at the reserve.

Black-winged Stilt chick at Għadira Nature Reserve (Photo by Aron Tanti)

Moreover, two of the Black-winged Stilts nesting this year at Għadira are birds that themselves hatched and fledged at the reserve in 2013 and have returned to the same place to raise their own chicks.

This was confirmed through scientific bird-ringing which BirdLife Malta carries out regularly at Għadira and other sites and thus demonstrates the success and importance of ringing and monitoring these birds.

One of the stilts, a male, was at the reserve in 2014 and fathered the first pair. The other bird ringed in 2013 is present this year and is mum of the second pair.

One should mention that Black-winged Stilts also nested successfully at Simar Nature Reserve a couple of years ago.

A juvenile Common Starling (Sturnell). Photo by Aron Tanti

Another species breaking breeding records at Għadira is the Common Starling (Sturnell), with up to five adults observed foraging and roosting in the reserve. BirdLife Malta could only confirm the breeding success of this bird at the Għadira Nature Reserve a few days ago when a juvenile bird was seen accompanying the adults. This indicates that the Starling bred for the first time in close proximity to the reserve.

As well as Black-winged Stilts and Common Starlings, between three to four pairs of Little Ringed Plovers (Monakella) were observed in the reserve which had up to four chicks each and are now again sitting on their second brood of eggs. These small birds with distinctive head and breast patterns and a striking yellow eye ring are common passage migrants, which breed between the March and August months.

Għadira Nature Reserve also serves as the feeding ground for several other species such as the Blue Rock Trush (Merill) and the Tree Sparrow (Ġaħġaħ) which breed outside but come to feed at the reserve.

The Reed Warbler has been spotted at Simar Nature Reserve (Photo by Aron Tanti)

Also spotted at Simar Nature Reserve have been four pairs of Reed Warblers (Bufula tal-Qasab), which hold a small, yet stable breeding population at the reserve.

The same nature reserve is also home to two pairs of Common Coots (Tiġieġa tal-Baħar) which nested at Simar earlier this year, together with several other species such as the Moorhen (Gallozz Iswed), the Zitting Cisticola (Bufula tal-Imrewħa), the Cetti’s Warbler (Bufula tal-Għollieq) and the Sardinian Warbler (Bufula Sewda).

BirdLife Malta’s Nature Reserves Manager Mark Gauci commented that the above goes to demonstrate that given the right habitat and given adequate protection birds will breed in Malta and the nature reserves managed by BirdLife Malta have been proving this year in year out. “We look forward to continuing our work on management and habitat restoration in a bid to attract more breeding species to the Maltese Islands,” he concluded.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here. See also the list of breeding species for BirdLife Malta’s nature reserves for 2016 here.