Identifying autumn raptors

August 13, 2021 10:44 am

Date: Tuesday, 31 August 2021
Time: 19:00–20:00
Location: Online (Zoom)

We once again invite you to join us for another informative Zoom event, organised by the BirdLife Malta Events & Activities Committee.

This month we will be hosting Edward Bonavia, BirdLife Malta’s National Raptor Coordinator, as he takes us through the autumn raptor migration in the Maltese Islands, focusing on the identification of these majestic birds. Edward has been recording and monitoring raptor migration at Buskett since 1990 when he was still 8 years old. Throughout the years he has seen a large number of raptors and also found two raptors which constituted the first record for the Maltese Islands: an Eastern Imperial Eagle and a Levant Sparrowhawk.

As raptors undertake a perilous journey thousands of kilometres long from summer to winter quarters, few would imagine that the Maltese Islands provides the perfect staging post for such migrating raptors. During autumn, raptors leave their breeding grounds in Europe to migrate south to their wintering grounds in Africa. Since the Maltese Islands are halfway between Europe and Africa it is an ideal stopover for several raptors that do not like to fly over large bodies of water without a short break in between.

Migrating raptors over Buskett (Photo by Edward Bonavia)

Since many broad-winged raptor species hesitate or refuse to cross bodies of water, raptor migration bottlenecks occur in areas that allow migrants to forego or reduce the lengths of extensive flights over water. Water avoidance in the Europe-Africa migration system is best seen at places such as the Strait of Gibraltar at the western end of the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus (Istanbul) in the east Mediterranean, and the Strait of Messina (between Sicily and Italy) in the central Mediterranean, where thousands of raptors together with other soaring birds (like storks), annually converge both during the spring and autumn migration. Some of those raptors taking the central route during autumn make it to the Maltese Islands after following the east and southeast coast of Sicily. This provides Maltese birdwatchers with a unique spectacle in the sky, which peaks in the month of September and from Buskett alone an average of 3,000 raptors are recorded every autumn.

How to participate

This will be an online event and it will be open only for BirdLife Malta members. Those interested in participating can book a screen for the Zoom presentation by registering their details on this google form, by no later than the 29th of August 2021. Full name, membership number and email address will be required to register.

A link will then be sent 24 hours prior to the event. Those participating should ensure they have the relevant Zoom Video Conferencing app installed on their devices.