Bird migration is one of the world’s most magnificent phenomena. Birds possess an impressive ability to navigate thousands of miles often without resting. They can fly to places they might not have visited before and return home after months away.
This journey can, however, turn out to be a death trap. If birds don’t pinpoint the right habitat when they start out their journey they will not survive. This challenge is quite daunting because it is a do or die scenario for millions of migrating birds around the world.
Birds migrate in search of food and nesting locations. With the first signs of winter, birds in northern Europe embark on the long trek south in search of warmer climates. With the return of spring, young birds have to knuckle down and make the journey up north. The physical stress of the trip, lack of adequate food along the way, bad weather, and exposure to predators all add to the hazards of the journey. Many birds never make it back home.
These winged creatures have been at the centre of human attraction probably since the dawn of time. Heated debates and rivalries on birds are a common occurrence on this island. In a bid to get a somewhat clearer picture of what lies on the two sides of the great divide, I’ve talked to two people in the know who gave their side of the story.
Ornithologist and bird enthusiast Natalino Fenech noted that “there are risks that humans create for migrating birds such as pesticides, hunting and trapping”.
Ornithologists “study bird migration by the use of satellite tracking and geo tracking. A small transmitter operated by a solar battery is attached to the bird and this enables researches to see where the bird is in real time,” Dr Fenech said. “If people learn more about birds and how fragile their life is they will view them with more respect”.
On the other hand, a bird trapper who wished to remain anonymous believes that bird trappers hold great affection for these flying machines and that it is hard to explain how difficult it is to part ways with his long-time hobby. “Many times we end up being negatively portrayed, however, few people love birds as much as we do”.
Asked whether he feels that capturing wild birds was harming nature, he said, his voice breaking with emotion: “I capture birds to tend to them. We do not harm birds and our actions do not affect their populations. No one knows how many migrating species are killed by feral cats each year, how many drown when crossing the oceans during their passage and how much do they suffer because of climate change. The relatively few (birds) that we capture legally each year are a fraction of the countless birds unwittingly killed by human actions such as the abuse of chemicals that spoil waterways and the organisms that birds thrive on”.
He pointed out that the birds that he trapped are housed in aviaries and he proudly said that he managed to breed most of the species of songbirds he keeps.
Bird enthusiasts, regardless of which side one comes from should waste no time fighting each other. Once, as they profess, they really have this great affection for the flying marvels they should unite and work together on programmes such as in-house bird breeding and fight as one against the exploitation of our rural areas in order to fly the flag on behalf of these wonderful feathered colonies.