Friday, 16 June 2017

BirdLife Cyprus: Cyprus Bird Report 2013 - Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) - Photo by George Konstantinou

The report contains 37 colour photos, the 2013 Systematic List of 293 observed species or recognised forms which was compiled from nearly 65,000 records, the 2013 Ringing report, papers on the first Asian Buff-bellied Pipit in Cyprus, the Southern Grey Shrike species complex, the BirdLife Cyprus 2013 monitoring programmes and Cyprus ringing recoveries updated to 2013. The Report includes species charts and tables and a full Cyprus bird List. The front cover features the Eurasian Griffon Vulture, the subject of a reintroduction project -GYPAS.

There are several birds on the Cyprus list that local birdwatchers have set their sights on seeing and on 3rd December 2013 Nicosia naturalists George and Fani Konstantinou were out near the buffer zone there, when they found a species that was high on the wanted list of many. They came across a Little Bustard Tetrax terax feeding near a track not too far from UN guard posts. Once they had confirmed the ID they set about informing other local birders and for many days afterwards they kindly ferried several people a day to the area, so that they too could enjoy good views of this confiding juvenile bird. Out in the middle of the fields outside Geri, the bird had chosen a relatively isolated area that you would struggle to find unless taken there.
Unfortunately though the story doesn't have a happy ending as most of you will now know. On 15th December a photograph of a shot bird was sent to BirdLife Cyprus Chairman Melis Charalambides by someone wanting to know what species their friend had shot. The photograph was of a shot Little Bustard and despite the fact that it is claimed that it had been shot in the area of Potamia, the Geri bird had not been seen since 14th. It is too much of a co-incidence and it can be safely assumed that the shot bird was George's bird.
According to P.Flint and P. Stewart in the second edition of 'The Birds of Cyprus' Little Bustard were seen, before 1946, usually in pairs, most winters especially in the Morphou area. They describe it as 'formerly a scarce to fairly common winter visitor to low ground Nov -- Feb'. They also mention many records of shot birds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The most recent accepted record of a live Little Bustard on the island is from the Paphos area in December 1979. Tellingly however there are reports of shot birds most years and such a report was received less than a month before the Nicosia bird was found. There are authenticated reports of specimens in taxidermist shops that support this otherwise hearsay evidence.
Little Bustard are the smallest member of the bustard family in Europe and are slightly bigger than a Black Francolin although have a more upright stance than that species. It is listed as Near Threatened by BirdLife International due to reduction in range and numbers -- especially in the west of its range - thought to be mainly due to habitat loss and degradation as well as what they describe as low-level hunting pressure. In the west of Europe it occurs in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France and in the east of its range it occurs in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, north-west China, northern Iran and Turkey. Many overwinter eastwards from Turkey to Azerbaijan.
News of the shooting of this individual shocked all who had seen it and other local birdwatchers but giving its confiding nature some
By Jane Stylianou

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