Campaign Against Illegal Bird Trapping

Illegal bird trapping with mist nets and limesticks is a widespread and serious problem in Cyprus. The practice is non-selective and large-scale, contributing to an ecological catastrophe of our common heritage and our natural environment.

In the Republic of Cyprus, the use of limesticks is widespread and there is limited enforcement action against restaurants illegally offering ambelopoulia, while in the SBAs there is extensive mist netting activity and widespread use of calling devices to draw in birds to their death.

The campaign against illegal bird killing is one of the key, long-term activities of BirdLife Cyprus, as it constitutes a serious and persistent problem in Cyprus. The actions undertaken by BirdLife Cyprus to tackle this problem can be separated in three main categories: systematic monitoring, lobbying and awareness-raising (to learn more about each category, please click on the relevant icons below).
Bird trapping is an illegal, non-selective, and cruel practice that is carried out in Cyprus. It involves the indiscriminate and large scale killing of thousands of birds every year, with the worst year, since our records began, being 2014 with an estimated 2.5 million birds killed. From various data sources there are 157 confirmed bird species that are affected by illegal bird trapping in Cyprus; however, this number could be larger. 82 οf the 157 species are listed as conservation priority species under the EU Birds Directive and / or BirdLife International. Overall, 400 bird species have been recorded in Cyprus, of which 280 are regularly occurring species.

Historically, trapped birds were a food supplement for the mostly poor island inhabitants living off the land. The practice of bird trapping in Cyprus has been recorded in historical documents from the Middle Ages and even earlier times. Trapping as practiced in Cyprus today, using mist nets and calling devices to attract birds, bears no relation to the ‘traditional’ practice, which was also of a non-selective nature. Nowadays, illegal bird trapping in Cyprus is widespread and extensive, taking place at an industrial scale, contributing to the large scale killing of hundreds of thousands of migratory and wintering birds. Illegal bird trapping during spring and autumn (main trapping period) targets mainly the capture and consumption of ambelopoulia (ambelopouli is the Cypriot name for the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. However, this term is normally used as a more generic term or collective noun that includes over 40 different songbird species that are caught on limesticks and mist nets. Illegal bird trapping also takes place extensively during the winter, targeting mainly the capture and consumption of Song thrushes Turdus philomelos.
The key message BirdLife Cyprus wants to convey is that bird trapping is an illegal, non-selective and cruel practice that is carried out extensively in Cyprus and which involves the large-scale and indiscriminate killing of thousands of birds of at least 157 different species, including many endangered ones. It has become clear that illegal bird trapping will only stop with the adoption and implementation of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach and BirdLife Cyprus promises to continue its fight until this is achieved.

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