Projects - Mia Milia Management

MIA MILIA MANAGEMENT

Mia Milia Restoration Project is a bi-communal conservation project between BirdLife Cyprus and KUŞKOR, the Turkish Cypriot Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature.

With funding received from Mark Constantine in mid 2019, and covering an 8-month period, we set out to carry out conservation actions at the Mia Milia Wetlands.

Why is the area important?

Hosting thousands of waterbirds annually, Mia Milia Sewage Treatment Plant is a manmade haven for waterbirds and is one of the 34 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Cyprus. It is a key breeding, wintering and passage site for the Near Threatened Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca. It regularly attracts significant wintering numbers of the globally Threatened White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala and Common Pochard Aythya farina, and the globally Near Threatened Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Mia Milia is also a key breeding site for the rare in Europe (SPEC3) Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus.

Moreover, the following species have been found to breed in small numbers in the area: the Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus with its incredibly camouflaged plumage, the Crested Lark Galerida cristata, the Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata, and the endemic Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca. Other bird species have also been recorded in the area, such as the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the fastest bird in the world, the Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, the Redshank Tringa totanus and the Bluethroat Luscinia svecica, a small but beautiful bird with bright colors on the neck and chest. 

The area is also home to a very interesting species of turtle, which is now very rare on our island – the Balkan Pond Turtle Mauremys rivulata. Mia Milia hosts the largest population of this species in Cyprus with hundreds of turtles found here.

Issues affecting the area

The main threats facing this area relate to the presence of predators, such as foxes and feral cats. These animals have access to the wetland and often feed on the chicks of these important bird species. They also regularly disturb adult birds, which often abandon their nests. This is a common problem for Cyprus with other important wetlands facing the same issue, such as Paralimni Lake and Larnaca Salt Lakes. Although an important element for our habitats in general, fox activity needs to be controlled in specific cases related to priority species such as the Spur-winged Lapwing and the Black-winged Stilt. Cats on the other hand are alien species that should not be found in natural habitats.

Moreover, the future of Mia Milia is threatened due to a new wastewater upgrade program, which could be catastrophic for the habitat. Water is very important on our island, since through the years the reduction of rainfall leads to the desertification of many areas. Given the significant number of priority species breeding in the area, there is a need for conservation, proper management and continuous monitoring in order to preserve the rich biodiversity found here, something that also reminds us that even manmade structures can play an important role in conservation efforts. We are in contact with KUŞKOR and them in turn with the local authorities to find a solution so that the area is preserved for years to come.

Project actions

In order to restore the wetland and minimize the threat to the birds, we consulted with experts on wetland management for breeding birds at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Following their advice and also based on local knowledge, we decided on placement of anti-predator fencing, with the aim of creating predator-free nesting areas for the Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Stilt and Spur-winged Lapwing.

Local support is of ultimate importance when it comes to the success of such projects. Therefore, KUŞKOR organized various meetings with the local municipality and got the necessary approvals for the fencing, as well as signage in the area and within the site, to guide and inform future visitors.

Following expert advice from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) anti-predator fencing was placed with the aim of creating predator-free nesting areas for the Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Stilt and Spur-winged Lapwing. The fence prevents wild cats and foxes from entering the area and disturbing breeding or wintering birds. Information signs have also been placed to inform and guide visitors to the area.

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