Published on 01 May 2011 in Letters

Cypriots have been catching birds for at least half a millennium (Locke 1904), and for over a century the epicentre of this trade has been known to lie in the southeast of the island. The Cypriots are now trying to control it, joined by the RAF at Akrotiri in the British Sovereign Base Area in the west, but it is now reported to be out of hand in the military area at Dhekelia in the east (e.g. Brit. Birds 104: 104). The implications of this trade are serious; last time I reviewed Cyprus ringing recoveries, more than 40% were composed of three species: Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla (27.6% – birds feed in the island on figs on their way south and may stay for the winter), Lesser Whitethroat S. curruca (8.1% – birds move east on their way south and feed up on berries) and Song Thrush Turdus philomelos (6.6% – wintering birds). The origin of the Blackcaps is shown in table 1. While they come from all round eastern Europe, there are fewer than might be expected from Poland and Germany. It may be wondered whether losses to the south may explain why German birds have recently started wintering in Britain.

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