Founded on 25th January 1962 as the Malta Ornithological Society (MOS), BirdLife Malta is the oldest environmental organisation in Malta.

BirdLife Malta historyIn 1962, a small group of nature lovers came together as they could see the damage being done to Malta’s diverse wildlife. MOS was founded with the main aims being the protection of birds and their habitats. This was a bold step at this time, as hunting and trapping were a popular way of life for all classes of Maltese society. But they didn’t let this stand in their way.

The group’s first success was achieved in 1966 when they managed to stop the building of a proposed road through the heart of Għadira wetland, now one of BirdLife Malta’s Nature Reserves. For the group, this success confirmed that birds could not be protected without the protection of their habitats too. Today BirdLife Malta manages another three nature reserves – Foresta 2000, Simar Nature Reserve and Salina, which is the latest reserve entrusted to the eNGO to manage.

Throughout their years of campaigning the group succeeded in many ways. Their persistent lobbying ensured a number of big successes for bird conservation including the island of Filfla being turned into a strict nature reserve, the eradication of robin trapping, consistent campaigning against illegal hunting, and the island of Comino declared as a bird sanctuary.

BirdLife Malta history

As the running of the MOS had always been carried out from the council members houses, as the organisation grew, the need for an official headquarters was becoming more and more apparent. In 1983 after hours and hours of hard work, a disused bakery in Valletta was transformed into an office to house the MOS.

In 1992, MOS became a partner of BirdLife International and so changed its name to BirdLife Malta, in doing so, acquiring the backing of a worldwide partnership of bird conservation organisations.

After Malta’s accession to the EU in 2004, the focus for BirdLife Malta became the issue of spring hunting, illegal in all EU countries except Malta. After years of campaigning, the referendum on spring hunting was held on 11th April 2015. Unfortunately, the referendum was won by the hunting lobby by only 2,200 votes and so spring hunting remains in Malta.

However, since some time ago, this is only permitted for one bird species (Common Quail) following a moratorium on the hunting of Turtle Dove which has now become a protected species after being red-listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction.

In regard to trapping, on 21st June 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a landmark judgement finding Malta guilty of infringing the European Birds Directive when it allowed the trapping of seven species of finch to reopen in 2014. This was the result of an infringement case initiated by the European Commission against Malta which in 2015 resulted in Malta being referred to the Court of Justice of the EU. To date, following this judgement, the Maltese Government has only opened trapping seasons for Golden Plover and Song Thrush.