Working together to protect migratory birds in the Mediterranean

Photo: Tomi Muukkonen

Project title: Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean
Project funding: MAVA Foundation
Project news: Mediterranean migrants

Why are we protecting migratory birds in the Mediterranean?

We believe birds are our guests deserve as safe a migration as possible, but migratory birds in the Mediterranean are being hit hard when they are most vulnerable. 


An instinctive urge drives three billion of them to the skies on immensely arduous journeys between Eurasia and Africa every year, where they have to cope with hurdling the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert. But on top of these natural challenges, the birds are also faced with huge persecution from humans. Every migration is a massacre, with threats including:  illegal trapping and hunting, collision with energy sector infrastructure (wind turbines and power lines) and loss of key stop-over feeding and resting sites. These threats have led to sustained and severe declines in migrant bird populations over the past few decades. Over 2.5million birds are killed each year because of illegal trapping - in Cyprus alone. 

What are we doing?

From their perspective in the sky, migratory birds need support that transcends international borders and political agendas. The BirdLife Partnership is in a unique position to achieve this. Our extensive global network includes 21 NGOs in the Mediterranean region, with a shared vision for the protection of migratory birds as part of BirdLife’s Global Flyways Programme. Referring to the regional support BirdLife has provided through this project, Martin Hellicar (Research Coordinator, BirdLife Cyprus) says: “We are a little island besieged by illegal trappers, so to know you are not alone is really important.”


How are we tackling the problem?

The Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean project, generously funded by the MAVA Foundation, aims to strengthen a dynamic network of conservation NGOs that work effectively with local people, national governments, and the international community to protect key migratory species, sites and habitats in the Mediterranean region.

 The power of many united under common objectives to protect migratory birds. 26 representatives from nature NGOs in the Mediterranean at project workshop in Cyprus. Photo: BirdLife Cyprus

The first phase of the project (October 2012-October 2014) supported the delivery of national conservation action to address these key threats in Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Montenegro and Morocco.  As part of their mission to protect migratory birds, BIrdLife Partner NGOs in each country implemented national level conservation activities, working to address the issue within their specific cultural, social and political context. However, the true strength of this project lies in the presence of a regional network, where expertise and experience can be shared between NGOs and coordinated regional initiatives can be developed. This is particularly relevant to the reduction of illegal killing of migratory birds – which relies heavily on raising public and political awareness and influencing policy and law enforcement. Illegal killing of migratory birds is the most significant common battle faced by the majority of countries across the Mediterranean. Conservation action implemented by this network is already generating many wins for migratory birds in a number of countries across the Mediterranean region.

“The strength of the BirdLife Partnership lies in the power of many,”

said BirdLife’s Director of Conservation, Richard Grimmett.

“Things can change. Give them a chance and the birds will come back.”

Click on the article above or the news items below for more details of project successes.

We are tackling the illegal hunting and trapping of birds in the Mediterranean, which is the biggest threat. Shown here Golden Oriole caught in a trapper's mistnet in Cyprus. Photo: BirdLife Cyprus


  • CZIP (BirdLife in Montenegro) has secured a two year hunting ban for Sasko Lake in Montenegro.
  • BirdLife Cyprus had drafted the first ever national Strategic Action Plan to address illegal trapping in Cyprus.
  • First training course was held to prepare hunters for the national hunting license exam through development and implementation of a hunters’ training course by Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL).
  • BirdLife Malta led a on the formation of a coalition of Maltese NGOs for abolition of spring hunting, and now a referendum on Spring Hunting is being held.
  • CZIP, Macedonian Ecological Society (MES), Association les Amis des Oiseaux (AAO) and SPNL have engaged with the electricity, gas and wind energy sectors at a number of levels.