14 May 2015

The poaching of European songbirds for food

Discussed at length by Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker:
Migratory birds were an important seasonal source of protein in the countryside, and older Cypriots today remember being told by their mothers to go out to the garden and catch some dinner. In more recent decades, ambelopoulia became popular with affluent, urbanized Cypriots as a kind of nostalgic treat—you might bring a friend a jar of pickled birds as a house gift, or you might order a platter of them fried in a restaurant for a special occasion. By the mid-nineties, two decades after the country had outlawed all forms of bird trapping, as many as ten million songbirds a year were being killed...

The Republic of Malta, which consists of several densely populated chunks of limestone with collectively less than twice the area of the District of Columbia, is the most savagely bird-hostile place in Europe. There are twelve thousand registered hunters (about three per cent of the country’s population), a large number of whom consider it their birthright to shoot any bird unlucky enough to migrate over Malta, regardless of the season or the bird’s protection status. The Maltese shoot bee-eaters, hoopoes, golden orioles, shearwaters, storks, and herons. They stand outside the fences of the international airport and shoot swallows for target practice. They shoot from urban rooftops and from the side of busy roads. They stand in closely spaced cliffside bunkers and mow down flocks of migrating hawks. They shoot endangered raptors, such as lesser spotted eagles and pallid harriers, that governments farther north in Europe are spending millions of euros to conserve. Rarities are stuffed and added to trophy collections; non-rarities are left on the ground or buried under rocks, so as not to incriminate their shooters. When bird-watchers in Italy see a migrant that’s missing a chunk of its wing or its tail, they call it “Maltese plumage.”..

Canale discovered his predatory instinct as a child, while hunting indiscriminately with his grandfather, and he feels fortunate to have met people who taught him a better way. “I don’t mind not killing something on any given day,” he said, “but killing is the goal, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t."
Via Salon.


  1. Ortolons are an endangered species and eating them has been outlawed in France for 16 years. Didn't keep Mitterand and his friends from having eating them shortly before Mitterand's death.


  2. Long time reader here, but I think that this is my first post.
    Malta had a referendum about the abolition of spring hunting just over a month ago and it failed (and therefore spring hunting has been retained).
    Both major political parties had backed the 'for hunting' vote.
    The season then closed a week early due to flagrant illegalities, which culminated in an incident when a bird was shot out of the sky and fell into a school yard full of young children.

    1. The metrics for this blog for the past year show an average of 1 visitor/day from Malta (range 0-4). It's good to meet you - welcome on board.


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