Spring hunting

Between 2017 and 2021 spring hunting in Malta was permitted only for Common Quail (Summiena), since the European Turtle-dove (Gamiema) was exempt from spring hunting by a moratorium. In 2022, the moratorium was lifted and spring hunting started being permitted once again on the protected Turtle-dove.

During the years when Turtle-dove hunting was not permitted, although spring hunting was supposedly permitted only for Quail, the chosen dates for the season were still purposely designed to overlap with the peak migration of the Turtle-dove – a protected species that is red-listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction. The extension of the season further towards the end of April put migrating Turtle-doves at enormous risk from illegal hunting.

European Turtle-dove (left) and Common Quail: two very different species which cannot be mistaken one for the other

BirdLife Malta monitored these hunting seasons with the aim of reporting and documenting the killing of protected species, especially the Turtle-dove.

To help in our efforts, we raised awareness amongst the public on how to identify and report any illegal hunting and so designed a video to explain all one needs to know about the very evident differences between the two species.

The video describes the very different characteristics of the Quail and the Turtle-dove, which are quite distinguishable and cannot really be mistaken one for the other as they vary in:

  • Appearance
  • Call
  • Flight patterns
  • Hunting methods
  • Luring methods.

Click on the tab below and have a look at the video guide (ENG and MLT versions) we prepared to make it easier for the public to report if they were aware that illegal spring hunting was taking place. This video helps people recognise which of these birds was being hunted and enables them to identify any illegal hunting taking place. Please note that this video was prepared at a time when only Quail was legally huntable during spring.

Quail vs Turtle-dove

The Common Quail & the European Turtle-dove: the four main differences you need to know

1. Difference in appearance

These two species are drastically different in appearance, both in size and colour. Their call is also very different.

2. Difference in flight patterns

The way they fly is one huge factor that makes it unmistakable. Whilst Quail migrate at night and hide in vegetation during the day, Turtle Doves arrive early in the morning, normally settling in trees.

3. Difference in hunting methods

Due to Quail and Turtle Doves differing in flight habits, different hunting methods have to be adopted for each. If you see a hunter in a hide aiming for the skies he will not be hunting Quail, which is the only huntable species this spring and is hunted on the ground. So he will probably be breaking the law!

4. Difference in luring methods

The only method that is used to lure Quail is by using live decoys in cages placed in fields – electronic callers are illegal. For Turtle Doves, live or plastic decoys are normally used close to hunting hides or hoisted up on trees or electric wires.