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THE MAGAZINE OF BIRDLIFE CYPRUS Quarterly edition December 2016 – January – February 2017

Featured bird The Greater Flamingo, an elegant winter visitor

Great news for nature: huge public campaign saves EU nature laws

Inside this issue… BirdLife Cyprus PO Box 12026, 2340 Nicosia, Cyprus Tel: +357 22 455 072 - Fax: +357 22 455 073 e-mail: birdlifecyprus@birdlifecyprus.org.cy www.birdlifecyprus.org Registration number: 4


Message from the Chairman


Campaigns Update Tassos Shialis


BirdLife Cyprus making headlines and Agenda


International and Local Environmental News Local: New book release: An Introduction to the Wildlife of Cyprus, David J. Sparrow & Eddie John International: The importance of EU’s Special Protection Areas, Elena Markitani


From birdwatching to population monitoring – winter surveys by our volunteers, Christina Ieronymidou


More than just a bird race: How Champions of the Flyway helped BirdLife Cyprus, Elena Markitani

Fundraising Officer: Eugene Benjamin


Members of Council: Filippos Georgiades, Jane Stylianou

Great news for nature: huge public campaign saves EU nature laws, Elena Markitani


Renew your membership for 2017


Shop and support


The Greater Flamingo, an elegant winter visitor, Elena Markitani

COUNCIL President: A.P. Leventis Chairman: Melis Charalambides Vice Chairman: Dave Walker Secretary: Stavros Christodoulides Treasurer: Chris Charalambides Field Trips Officer: Dave Walker Social Secretary: Loria Phylaktis BirdLine Officer: June Neal

Bird Recorder: Jane Stylianou Director: Martin A. Hellicar

Cover photo: Greater Flamingo, Albert Stoecker

Owner: BirdLife Cyprus Editorial control: Elena Markitani Articles written by: Charalambides M., Ieronymidou C., Markitani E., Shialis T., Sparrow D. J. & John E. Person responsible under the law: Melis Charalambides Printing - Production: Lithofit – 22 779789 Graphic designer: ORANGEAPPLE CREATIVE ISSN: 1986-3772

The magazine Cyprus Wheatear is printed on 40% recycled paper.

BirdLife Cyprus is the most active non-governmental organization that works to conserve wild birds and their habitats and wider biodiversity in Cyprus. The organisation is the national Partner of BirdLife International. We are grateful for continued funding from Mr A.P. Leventis, the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).


Message from the Council Chairman Dear members, The New Year brings with it a new start for BirdLife Cyprus and many challenges, some of which - like bird trapping - seem never to go away, despite our best efforts. But we begin 2017 under new leadership and with renewed hope. We aim to make real progress in halting the scourge of illegal bird killing of all kinds. We will seek to lessen the blight of uncontrolled development impacting on our key bird habitats. And all the while we will tackle the underlying problem of lack of interest in bird and nature protection on our Island, by spreading the conservation message as far and wide - and as creatively - as we can. Change can be disruptive but it can also be an opportunity. The challenge for the BirdLife Cyprus office - a strong team of committed individuals under Martin Hellicar’s leadership, the new BirdLife Cyprus director - is to take us forward, by building on what has been successfully developed over the past few years. The BirdLife Cyprus Council will be there to provide support, encouragement and guidance to our office team.

Recent news of Arctic heat-waves and Antarctic ice-shelves breaking up, reminds us - vividly - of how big the environmental challenge is, and of how urgent the situation has become. Saving birds at a local level is part of the answer to these huge and growing ecological problems. It is about keeping nature as healthy and strong as we can, so it can withstand the massive system changes underway. BirdLife Cyprus will be seeking to play its part in what has to be a global effort. I would like to conclude by reminding you how much we value and need your support and by wishing all of you (and BirdLife Cyprus too) a happy, successful and birdfilled 2017! With my best wishes, Melis Charalambides

Photo of the Issue Even though the background is anything but stunning, this photograph beautifully illustrates how nature can unveil itself in the most unanticipated ways. Some birds, such as this urban Common Kestrel that was captured ‘cruising’ in the Yermasoyia tourist area, readily accept some man-made systems and are considered somewhat ‘tolerant’ of human activity. However, for them to continue finding refuge and be able to co-exist with humans in cities, our human activities can only be ‘tolerated’ when they are counterbalanced by awareness of the need to protect this urban wildlife. Thanks to Maria Evripidou for this shot! If you also wish to share your photos which are relevant to Cyprus nature, please send them to elena.markitani@birdlifecyprus.org.cy

Maria Evripidou

Campaigns update Overview of illegal bird trapping for 2016 The issue of illegal bird trapping in Cyprus was much covered in the media (radio, TV, social media) for the year 2016, and it has been a very busy year for BirdLife Cyprus with regard to its anti-trapping awareness campaign. Apart from continuing with its surveillance programme (winter, spring and autumn 2016 field surveys) BirdLife Cyprus has been running various projects and actions to raise awareness and to engage the public regarding this persistent problem. In particular, the ‘153 birds’ campaign and the Parliamentary elections online campaign #WeNatureCy have been two very high profile actions, funded from the Champions of the Flyway bird race taking place every year in Israel (you can read more about these actions in the pages to follow). These awareness actions were covered extensively in the media, creating a very encouraging momentum especially around the ‘153 birds’ campaign. On a political level BirdLife Cyprus has been following very closely the hunting law amendment (amendment law for Legislation 152(I)/2003 regarding the protection and management of wild birds and game), brought to the Cyprus Parliament in late June 2016 by the Game and Fauna Service. The amendment included a series of catastrophic proposals for birds (including on-the-spot fines for all offences, offer of game in restaurants) which BirdLife Cyprus have strongly opposed from the very beginning. Various government departments (Public Health Services, Department of Forests) have also expressed their concern regarding various aspects of this amendment law. Since late September (2016), the amendment has been discussed in closed meetings of the Committee on the Environment of the Cyprus Parliament while BirdLife Cyprus has continued strongly with its lobbying effort in order to avoid any relaxation of the existing law.

BirdLife Cyprus has stressed to the Cyprus Parliament that many of the proposals included in this law amendment could very likely cause further headaches with the European Commission, which has been following the issue of illegal bird trapping in Cyprus closely in the last few years, and has warned the Cyprus Government on various occasions that more decisive action is needed to tackle bird trapping. The latest case has been France, when the Commission announced on 8 December 2016 that they are referring the country to the Court of Justice over its failure to protect wild birds. More specifically, France is taken to Court because of the illegal practices relating to the deliberate killing or capture of the Ortolan Bunting which still continue despite the Commission asking France on a number of occasions to take measures to stop this wildlife crime. We hope that the example of France will be seen as a precedent by the Cyprus Parliament, and that the Members of Parliament will realise the probable risks involved and will remove the catastrophic proposals included in this law amendment. Tassos Shalis Campaigns Coordinator

Will Cyprus be the next Member State to be taken to the EU Court of Justice, for failing to protect endangered and migratory species?, D. Nye


BirdLife Cyprus making headlines… BirdLife Cyprus, in conjunction with the SBA Environmental Department and with the help of willing volunteers, organised two events to clear the reeds at Zakaki Marsh in order to control reed expansion at the site. By controlling the expansion of reeds and by clearing areas, open water areas were created that serve as suitable habitats for many species of plants as well as birds. Furthermore, BirdLife Cyprus held in December the first Cyprus screening of the award-winning documentary ‘The Messenger’ which investigates the causes of the mass depletion of songbirds around the world. The announcement of the screening event was well received by the media resulting in good attendance on the day of the screening. Finally, in a joint press release, BirdLife Cyprus, the Cyprus Conservation Foundation Terra Cypria and Friends of the Earth Cyprus welcomed the good news from the European Commission, which has officially confirmed that the EU’s nature laws – the Birds and Habitats Directives – will be saved and not rewritten and weakened. Read more about the success of the #NatureAlert campaign on page 10.


The schedule of field trips is drawn up well in advance of the actual dates and will only change due to an extraordinary event. However, it is sometimes necessary to assign a different leader. Participants in field trips are advised therefore to check with the BirdLife Cyprus website in case of any late changes to the trip leader. “Whilst BirdLife Cyprus does not charge non-members for attending its field trips, any voluntary donation to its conservation work would be very welcome. Please present your donation to the leader on the day”. Fieldtrips and Activities: For field trips, please don’t forget your flask of coffee and sandwiches. Although their higher clearance is an advantage, 4x4s are not necessary for any of the field trips unless stated otherwise below. Saturday 18th February: Paphos Foothills Leaders: Dave and Jan Walker. Mobile: 99915907 Winter thrushes and finches. Meet at 9.00 am, roundabout Paphos end of motorway, lay-by at “Konia” exit. Coordinates: 34o 47’.09 N, 32o 26’.74 E Saturday 4th March: Akhna Dam & Oroklini Marsh Please pre-book with leader. Leader: Stavros Christodoulides. Tel: 99425050 Late winter visitors, early spring migrants and waterbirds Meet 09.00 am west end of Akhna Dam Wall. Coordinates: 35o 03’.25 N, 33o 48’.91 E Wednesday 8th March: Akrotiri Peninsula Leader: June Neal. Tel: 25932008 / 99918665 Late winter visitors, water birds and spring migrants Meet 8.30 am, (Please note the earlier start time) Viewing hide at Zakaki Marsh. Coordinates: 34o 38’.57 N, 33o 00’.23 E Saturday 18th March: Paphos Lighthouse Leaders: Ian and Kate Bloomer. Mobile: 99265661 Early Spring migrants Meet 8.30 am (please note the earlier start time), Entrance of Archaeological area by the Paphos Harbour Car Park. Coordinates: 34o 45’.36 N, 32o 24’.51 E Saturday 25th March: Larnaca Sewage Works & Oroklini Marsh Please pre-book with leader. Leader: Martin Hellicar. Tel: 99907893

Spring migrants and waterbirds Meet 9.00 am, Larnaca Sewage Works Hide. Coordinates: 34o 51’.61 N, 33o 37’.64 E Saturday 1st April: Asprokremmos Dam and Mandria Leader: Alan Crane. Tel: 99276310 Spring migrants. Meet at 9.00 am, Asprokremmos Dam car park. Coordinates: 34o 43’.666 N, 32o 33’.14 E Friday 7th - Sunday 9th April: Karpas Peninsula Spring migrants and rare residents Leader: Melis Charalambides. Tel: 22632155 / 99653205 Please book in advance with Melis Charalambides. Note, there is a 50 euro deposit on each booking. Friday 14th April - Monday 17th April (Cypriot Easter) Saturday 22nd April: Cape Greko Please pre-book with leader. Leader: Stavros Christodoulides. Tel: 99425050 Spring migrants Meet 7.30 am at Kermia Beach Hotel turn-off (please note earlier start time) or at 09:30 am for those unable to make the earlier meeting. Coordinates: 34o 58’.54 N, 34o 02’.46 E Saturday 6th May: Kannaviou Dam & Paphos Forest Leaders: Dave and Jan Walker. Tel: 99915907 Resident raptors, recent migrants and water birds. Meet 9.00 am, Stroumbi, Esso Petrol Station, opposite turn off to Polemi. Coordinates: 34o 52’.62 N, 32o 28’.947 E Saturday 13th May: Akrotiri Peninsula Leader: June Neal. Tel: 25932008 / 99918665 Late spring migrants and water birds. Meet 8.30 am (please note the earlier start time) at Akrotiri Marsh (Phassouri Reed-beds). Coordinates: 34o 37’.964 N, 32o 56’.05 E Saturday 20th May: End of Season Get Together Lunch 12.30 pm at Kyrenia Restaurant, Avdimou. For bookings please contact Mrs Loria Phylakti on 99413383 or at loriaph@gmail.com Coordinates: 34o 39’.49 N, 32o 46’.015 E

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Participation in BirdLife Cyprus field meetings is at one’s own risk. BirdLife Cyprus accepts no liability or responsibility for accidents, illness, injury or loss or damage to property that might occur. Field trips require light to moderate exercise. Please contact the field trip leader for more information on difficulty, distances and terrain of a particular field trip.

Environmental News of the Island New book release: An Introduction to the Wildlife of Cyprus This new guide covers all the main groups of animals found in Cyprus, including birds, reptiles and mammals as well as numerous orders of insects, spiders and other invertebrates. Bringing together the work of 44 expert authors, from Cyprus and a dozen other countries, the book’s 895 pages contain up-to-date scientific information, illustrated with over 1,000 colour photographs contributed by 107 photographers. For experienced birders, the chapter on birds will not offer any new revelations, but we hope it will stimulate interest among a wider audience. It includes a species checklist updated for 2016, with 40 birds then featured in more detail. There are also sections on bird evolution and biology, and on the conservation work of BirdLife Cyprus. Birdwatchers will find information on many other species which they may see in the field: for instance all of the dragonfly and butterfly species in Cyprus, and a wide range of other insects from mantids and beetles to the rarely seen stick insect, are also featured. Published by Terra Cypria (the Cyprus Conservation Foundation), the book is available from major bookshops priced at €60. We hope the work will encourage interest in the unique fauna of Cyprus, and promote further research. David J. Sparrow & Eddie John

International News The importance of EU’s Special Protection Areas Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are key sites for bird conservation across the globe utilizing standardised and scientifically rigorous criteria, with the aim of securing the protection and sympathetic management of these sites, for the benefit of birds, wider biodiversity and people. In Europe, IBAs are routinely used as the scientific baseline for selecting nature hotpots that merit Special Protection Area (SPA) status under the EU’s most iconic nature laws – the Birds Directive. These protected areas are one of the great pillars of nature conservation. New research conducted by a team of international scientists – led by the University of Helsinki and recently published in the journal ‘Biological Conservation’ investigated the extent to which the habitats of birds, mammals and reptiles are actually covered by the Birds Directive. In doing so, the project studied how closely BirdLife’s IBAs informed the definition of the EU’s SPA network and how the network’s species coverage could be expanded exponentially. The results are quite interesting.

The researchers also looked at the coverage of the habitats of mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the SPA network. On average, it covers around 31% of the habitat of threatened reptiles, 25% of the amphibians and 20% of the mammals. An impressive find, especially when considering that the template for these networks – based on BirdLife’s IBAs – was mainly designed for birds. This shows that the IBAs, and, in turn, the EU’s Birds Directive, do far more than just protect birds: they play a significant role in protecting many threatened species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Elena Markitani Development Officer

First of all, the research has shown that SPAs cover 66% of the EU’s IBAs, but the degree of overlap varies considerably between Member States. Latvia, for example, has designated almost all of their IBAs as SPAs. Other Member States however still lag behind with their networks. In Cyprus, for example, only 53% of the area identified as IBAs enjoys the legal protection conferred by SPA designation. While all IBAs in the government controlled areas are designated as SPAs, the boundaries are not always the same. For example, Akamas and Paphos Plain IBAs are much smaller than their equivalent SPAs, while six IBAs which are located in the occupied areas are not currently designated as SPAs. Paralimni Lake IBA is home to the endangered (and harmless) Cypriot Grass Snake Natrix natrix cypriaca, L. Sergides


From birdwatching to population monitoring – winter surveys by our volunteers If you are reading this magazine and are a BirdLife Cyprus member, then I know you genuinely care about the conservation of Cyprus’ birds and nature. Probably you enjoy spending time outdoors in our island’s beautiful countryside. Maybe even you are a birdwatcher. Watching birds is a tremendously popular pastime across the globe and it is not difficult to understand why. Birds are fascinating creatures that are colourful, active and vocal and can draw attention in a way that other, more cryptic or sedentary, wildlife does not. They provide an accessible link with the natural world and are a source of joy and wonder. Little wonder then that birds are one of the most well-studied animals in the world. Birds are sentinels for change in the environment, like the canary in the coal mine. Keeping a record of the birds they see is one of the most useful things a birdwatcher can do. Luckily, seldom is a birdwatcher seen without their notebook. Even more valuable, is to record birds regularly at the same place. Such records provide a greater understanding of the bird diversity at the site and how it is changing over time. For maximum conservation value and to answer more specific questions about how our birds are doing, we need to be more systematic. Systematic monitoring - long-term, repeated data collection - is the foundation for understanding, managing and ultimately conserving species and habitats. Thanks to a group of committed volunteers, at BirdLife Cyprus we run a number of bird monitoring programmes. Most of these take place during the breeding season in spring and summer, but our volunteers are active during wintertime as well. One of our longest-running schemes is the Waterbird Monitoring Programme, which covers more than 60 wetland sites across the island since 2005. In mid-winter, the waterbird count takes the spotlight, as BirdLife Cyprus volunteers participate in one of the largest citizen science programmes in the world, the mid-winter International Waterbird Census (IWC). The IWC, organised by Wetlands International, is one of the largest and longest running monitoring programmes in the world. For the last 50 years, the IWC has involved thousands of volunteers in annual simultaneous surveys across all key waterbird sites in the world, to estimate the global populations and status of more than 870 species of waterbirds.

With the help of our volunteers, BirdLife Cyprus also runs speciesspecific monitoring, like our annual winter Griffon Vulture census, which this winter was successfully completed in December 2016 in collaboration with the Game and Fauna Service and the Sovereign Base Area Environmental Department. Griffon Vultures are the largest birds that breed in Cyprus and are vital for the health of the environment. The population of these impressive birds on the island has plummeted due to poisoning and other threats including habitat loss and changing farming practices. Under Project ‘GYPAS’ during 2011-2013, Griffon Vultures from Crete were released in Cyprus to reinforce our local population. Our annual census allows us to monitor the Griffon Vulture population and see how the birds released from Crete are getting on. It is difficult to overstate the value of the information that these systematic surveys provide, and hence the value of our volunteers. Our volunteers and tens of thousands of volunteers from around the world contribute the data and information that is used to identify the extinction risk of bird species in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Data from volunteer-led efforts are the foundations for the indicators that the European Union uses to assess the health of the European countryside and the sustainability of land use across the EU. Such data form the backbone of the evidence base we at BirdLife Cyprus need and use to advocate and fight for the conservation of birds (and nature) in Cyprus. If you want to contribute to our volunteer efforts, please contact Christina Ieronymidou at christina.ieronymidou@birdlifecyprus.org.cy. You can also report your birdwatching records on BirdTrack at http://blc.birdtrack.net Christina Ieronymidou Monitoring and Research Coordinator

BirdLife Cyprus

More than just a bird race: How Champions of the Flyway helped BirdLife Cyprus In 2014, the SPNI (BirdLife in Israel) and BirdLife International launched Champions of the Flyway (COTF): an exciting annual birdwatching race aiming to raise funds to tackle the illegal killing of birds in Europe and enabling national BirdLife Partners to tackle the problem locally. Every year, teams from around the world come together and compete to observe and register as many bird species as possible within a 24 hour period. But Champions of the Flyway is not just about clocking species. It is about celebrating the wonder of bird migration and raising the funds necessary to help preserve this wondrous phenomenon for many generations to come. The money raised from the 2015 COTF event was selected to go to BirdLife Cyprus. The selection was based on a meaningful connection between the two countries: Cyprus and Israel share the same flyway and birds that leave Cyprus go to Israel in the autumn, and vice versa in spring. Cyprus is, after all, located on one of the main migratory routes between Africa and Europe and literally millions of birds pass through here every migratory season. When an estimated 2 million of them are illegally killed here every year, suddenly the responsibility in the hands of the people of this small island looms large. This vital funding secured through the COTF event in 2015, aided BirdLife Cyprus in the fight against illegal bird killing by bringing people closer to the rich world of birds and nature through two major awareness raising campaigns: ‘153 birds’ and #WeNatureCy. ‘153 birds’ In spring 2016, when migratory birds had already started their long and difficult journey towards their breeding grounds, BirdLife Cyprus launched ‘153 birds’, a drawing competition to bring people closer to the world of birds and the wonder of bird migration. The number

The Mayor of Nicosia Mr. Yorkadjis, the BirdLife Cyprus Council Chairman Mr. Charalambides, and the Commissioner for the Environment Ms Panayiotou inaugurating the exhibition, BirdLife Cyprus

153 is anything but arbitrary. In Cyprus, Illegal bird trapping is a serious and persistent problem and affects 153 bird species. The starting point of ‘153 birds’ was a successful event organised on Sunday 17 April 2016 at the Famagusta Gate Moat. Over 200 people of all ages joined us to listen to fairy tales and songs about birds and to draw pictures of birds. Within the two months that followed, more than 300 submissions were received from children, teens and adults, exceeding our expectations. The difficult task of selecting the winners of the drawing competition was undertaken by a committee comprised of BirdLife Cyprus staff and members of its Council, while the public cast their vote online for the ‘People’s Choice’ category winner. In late autumn 2016, when migratory birds were heading to their wintering grounds, BirdLife Cyprus held the ‘153 birds’ drawing and photography exhibition to showcase many of the beautiful drawings received as part of the ‘153 birds’ drawing competition. At the exhibition opening the Mayor of Nicosia, Mr. Constantinos Yorkadjis and the Commissioner for the Environment, Ms Ioanna Panayiotou gave opening speeches, awarded the winners with their prizes and inaugurated the exhibition. The exhibition and campaign concluded a month later with an educational workshop for children led by the very popular drama practitioner Marina Katsari, who narrated fairy tales about birds. #WeNatureCy – voting and winning for Cyprus’ nature Part of the funds raised from COTF went towards #WeNatureCy, an online campaign ahead of the Cyprus parliamentary elections in May 2016, to draw attention to the importance of protecting our nature by engaging the public and the candidates.

8-9 Elections are always a good opportunity to put important issues under the spotlight and this was a good time to prompt the public to make their voice heard for nature protection and give candidates the chance to reassure a very large number of concerned citizens that safeguarding Cyprus’ nature is their concern too. A manifesto was sent to all parties and their candidates, prompting them to pledge their commitment to seven key-points on the protection of nature. Through the re-sharing of the campaign video and the sharing of Cyprus’ nature photos through social media, people were raising their voices and were asking candidates to show their commitment by adopting the manifesto. Throughout the duration of the campaign, the names of all candidates who pledged for the protection of Cyprus nature were announced online and voters were prompted to vote so that nature and its protection were also among the winners of the elections. The result? A promising newly constituted parliament with 21 out of the 56 new MPs being among those who pledged to protect nature. Μ. Holloway

The 21 elected MPs who adopted the BirdLife Cyprus’ manifesto pledged to promote training and learning about nature, the creation of jobs related to the protection of nature, to uphold the law, and defend the implementation of all laws that protect nature, especially for those concerning killing of migratory birds, to promote measures for the management of all Natura 2000 sites and to protect the Akamas Peninsula against degradation. The MPs also pledged to promote the reduction of chemicals used in nature or in farming and to support the expansion of sustainable farming. We hope that the course taken by the new Parliament in the next five years will be paved with honest motives and will be driven by the need to protect Cyprus’ nature and everything beautiful, wild and free it represents. Through ‘153 birds’ and #WeNatureCy we hope that everyone who drew birds, visited the exhibition, shared our campaigns or voted for competition winners or MPs, has learnt something new and exciting about our wonderful nature and wildlife, has understood the critical need of its protection and will help us spread the message even further.

BirdLife Cyprus

A big heartfelt thank you to SPNI and BirdLife International for choosing to support BirdLife Cyprus through this inspirational fundraising race as well as the supporters, sponsors, donors, all the participating teams and all those who generously gave contributions.

STOP PRESS: The number of bird species affected by illegal bird trapping has now climbed to 154. The unfortunate species that ‘made’ it to the list was a Redwing Turdus iliacus which was released from mistnets together with other species during a two-day anti-poaching operation carried out by CABS and SPA within the Dhekelia Sovereign Base area in January 2017, where over 500 mist nets were found, proving once more the industrial scale and non-selective nature of illegal bird trapping in Cyprus. Elena Markitani Development Officer

BirdLife Cyprus

Great news for nature: huge public campaign saves EU nature laws In a great victory for nature, the European Commission officially confirmed on 7 December 2016 that the EU’s iconic nature laws – the Birds and Habitats Directives – will be saved and not rewritten and weakened. This announcement ends two years of uncertainty over the future of the Directives. The Commission has also called for an Action Plan to better implement and enforce these laws. Two years ago, the watering down of these Nature laws was considered a battle already lost. Throughout the #NatureAlert campaign, a European campaign to save the Nature Directives, organized by BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF Europe and over 120 European NGOs we have also been helped along the way by countless groups and individuals; there has been unprecedented support from business, Members of the European Parliament, Environment Ministers and scientists. In Cyprus, the action was supported by BirdLife Cyprus, the Cyprus Conservation Foundation Terra Cypria, Friends of the Earth – Cyprus and the Federation of Environmental Organisations of Cyprus. But the undisputed heroes of this success have been the half a million European citizens who took the time to take a stand, to speak their mind and ultimately to make all the difference. In the summer of 2015, 520,325 Europeans told the EU to save our nature laws and make sure they are implemented properly, contributing to the largest response to any Commission consultation to date. The EU nature laws are fundamental to nature protection in Europe, safeguarding more than 1,400 threatened species and one million square kilometres of natural habitats that fall under their protection.

Little Owl, A. Stoecker

They are also enormously popular, and have been fiercely defended by scientists, the public, businesses, the European Parliament and national governments. Cyprus has designated 63 Natura 2000 sites, but many of these face serious unsustainable development threats and there is an urgent need for protective management of these key nature areas. The Natura 2000 network does not prohibit activities within its areas, but the network philosophy is that man must work together with nature; activities that take place must be sustainable and in harmony with the natural environment. Its goal is to ensure long-term survival of valuable and threatened species and habitats of Europe. This is an extraordinary EU wide success story of citizen mobilization; but as even Commissioner Vella stated, the critical work of better implementation will be the acid test of this success – and that lies ahead. From all of us at BirdLife Cyprus, a heartfelt thanks to all who spoke up to protect nature!

Elena Markitani Development Officer


Red-footed Falcon, J. Willson


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A. Stoecker

The black colour of this Greater Flamingo is considered to be caused by a genetic anomaly called melanism, i.e. the opposite of an albino. This basically means that this specific flamingo produces more melanin than normal and that turns its colour dark brown or black.


The Greater Flamingo, an elegant winter visitor They’re popular, strikingly elegant, quite unique and most important of all, they’re pink! These are none other than the Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus, one of the best known birds in Cyprus and one of the biggest water birds that come to the island to winter. Found in shallow saline or brackish lakes and coastal lagoons, these well-known winter visitors are surprisingly noisy. Their voice, not nearly as graceful as their looks, consists of guttural trumpeting sounds and goose-like cackling notes when standing or wading in the shallows, and honking cries when in flight.

Every winter, the arrival of these magnificent creatures sparks admiration and curiosity in children and adults alike. Many, however, in their efforts to get a better look or snap a photo, get too close. Flamingos are very sensitive to disturbance and this problematic behaviour can upset them significantly. Not being able to properly rest during the winter months has negative effects on the breeding success of certain species during breeding season in spring. Therefore, it is very likely that this sort of disturbance will not allow the birds to gather the strength needed for the breeding season. It can also lead to exhaustion, which may prove fatal for a migratory bird. To enjoy these delightful birds, try the bird hide at Oroklini Lake or the one at Larnaka Salt Lake, or visit the Akrotiri Environmental Education Center. Birds’ interests should always come first – after all, they may not always come back. Elena Markitani Development Officer

Although the male Greater Flamingo is larger than the female, their plumage is the same. They are bright pink with bright red and black on their wings, which shows when they fly. After all, their pink colour is what gave them their scientific name Phoenicopterus roseus. Their long legs are also pink as is their big, bent bill which has a black tip. Juvenile birds may take up to four years before they become pink. In the meantime, they are a ‘dirty’ brown-grey colour and can often be seen in the flocks of adults. Some years, thousands of birds spend the winter at Akrotiri and Larnaka Salt Lakes, usually arriving in November and leaving again by the end of February. Most of them come from their nesting grounds in Turkey and Iran to spend the winter here. Sometimes, a few birds from France and Spain may also make their way to Cyprus. The level of the water in the Salt Lakes determines whether the Flamingos will stay in Cyprus, and also affects how many of them stay. If the water levels are right (not too shallow and not too deep) some Flamingos may stay longer and even spend the summer here. Sometimes, when temperatures are exceptionally high for the months of October and November, Flamingos make ‘pseudo-nests’ i.e. conical nests without eggs. It’s usually the immature birds that attempt to make such nesting mounds which have no eggs in them and which are then deserted. This phenomenon has happened in the past in Cyprus and has also been documented in Italy and Spain. Flamingos have only laid eggs once in Cyprus, in 2005, albeit unsuccessfully.

A. Stoecker

According to the latest waterbird count undertaken by BirdLife Cyprus in January 2017 around 2,100 Flamingos are wintering at the wetlands of the island this year. The population of Greater Flamingos coming to Cyprus to winter constitutes a globally significant number. Both Larnaka and Akrotiri Salt Lakes have been declared as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) due to the number of Flamingos they host in the winter. Their strict protection on breeding grounds in the Mediterranean has led to a significant increase of the population of this species and to the creation of new colonies. The renowned black-plumed Flamingo that was first seen in Cyprus in early April 2014 has yet to make an appearance this winter. This bird is probably the world’s only black Flamingo being completely black with a small tuft of white feathers visible near its rump. It is almost certainly the same individual that was seen in Eilat, Israel in February 2014. A. Stoecker

Φλαμίνγκο Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus S. Christodoulides

Profile for birdlifecyprus

Cyprus Wheatear - Winter 2016 - 2017 issue  

BirdLife Cyprus Quarterly Magazine

Cyprus Wheatear - Winter 2016 - 2017 issue  

BirdLife Cyprus Quarterly Magazine