| Blue Rock Thrush 'Merill' / DCachia|
As an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta’s geographical position makes the islands an ideal location to observe annual bird migrations. The islands are unique because they lie along one of the main European-African migration flyways. Malta has an international importance out of scale with its diminutive size. Indeed, a recent BirdLife Malta study (which looked at data from bird ring recoveries) showed that birds from at least 47 countries (35 in Europe and 12 in Africa) pass over Malta during migration periods.
The Maltese list currently stands at 384 species. Of these 21 are regular breeders (see Table below), with a further 17 breeding very rarely or erratically.
Table 1. Regular breeding birds in Malta:
Kangu ta’ Filfla
Blue Rock Thrush
Bufula ta’ l-iMrewha
Bufula ta’ l-Ghollieq
Little Ringed Plover
A further 170 species pass through Malta every year on migration, with smaller numbers staying over the winter period. Spring and autumn migrations see large numbers of raptors, waterfowl, waders and passerines passing through Malta on their way to and from breeding and wintering grounds.
The remainder of the Maltese list is composed of rare migrants and vagrants. The number and movement of birds during migration usually depend on the weather conditions. However, on a good day during migration, an exciting and varied mix of interesting species can be found at migration hotspots on the islands.
Hunting and trapping is having a severe effect on the number and variety of birds breeding in Malta. Species that used to breed in Malta, such as the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Barn Owl (Tyto alba) and Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), have all become extinct in recent years as a direct result of illegal hunting.