December 2, 2022

Following a review we published recently of the Cyprus illegal bird trapping and the effect this seemed to have had on the local tourism, we received the following article from Keith Lloyd.

Many people locally will have encountered Keith and listened to his talks and seen his excellent slide shows (see example below) on many subjects and especially on the subject of wildlife which is one of his passions.

Migratory Birds face annual slaughter in Cyprus

Trapping by the use of mist nets and lime sticks puts millions of birds at risk for Ambelopoulia delicacy

By Keith Lloyd

The position of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean makes it especially important as a stopping place for millions of birds migrating between Africa, Europe and western Asia each year. During  migrations in Spring and  the Autumn, almost 300 different species use Cyprus as a stepping-stone during their flights across the Mediterranean. Due to the morphology of the island, the migrants tend to ‘funnel’ into certain areas, making them vulnerable to human interference.

Law flouted

There are laws in Cyprus forbidding the trapping of birds; however,  large numbers of trappers act illegally by causing death to millions of migrants annually by using lime sticks and mist nets.

Birds driven to death

The birds are driven towards the traps by the trappers shouting and throwing stones into the bushes to flush the birds out. An even more lethal method, involves the use of tape-recorded birdsong to attract the migrants to their deaths.

Killed for food or kept for caging

Most of trapped birds are killed, some exotic species are retained alive for the caged bird trade. Unwanted species are simply killed and discarded, the remainder are killed and sold as ‘ambellopoulia’, a high-priced delicacy on the island. The birds are pickled or grilled, and sold in tavernas. A diner will typically eat a dozen or more ‘ambellopoulia’ at one sitting at a cost of c. €40.

South of Cyprus – Tourist Areas, SBA’s & Mountains – Bird Death Zones

Most trapping takes place in the south-east of the island during the Autumn migration, although the trappers are also out during the Spring migration, when their cull is especially harmful since it occurs before the birds have had a chance to breed. Some trapping also takes place in the mountains.

The most notorious regions are also the most popular tourist areas; from Paralimni and Protaras on the east coast, to Ayia Napa on the south. Here, few migrants survive the trapping; the nets and lime-sticks are everywhere, including in the Cape Greco National Park, along nature trails and often in hotel grounds. Many reports indicate that the British Sovereign Bases at Akrotiri near Limassol and Dehkalia near Larnaca are prime bird trapping areas.  Birders in the North part of the island are suspicious that trapping takes place here too, although no cases have been reported recently.

Vast majority of Migrant Birds Slaughtered in Suspect Areas

Poor monitoring meant that by 2000 trapping had become out of control. Some reports suggest that over 15 million birds are killed in Cyprus each year, of which those legally hunted game species, are only a small proportion. Estimates that 75% of all migrants birds landing in the worst affected areas are caught and killed may be an under-calculation; observers in those areas state that it is rare to see any bird alive except those caught in nets or on lime-sticks.  No species can survive predation on this scale.

Indiscriminate trapping

The trapping is completely indiscriminate and many of the birds taken are from species which are already endangered or in decline, which include species which are popular and cherished in other parts of Europe. Many European countries take tangible steps to protect these species, efforts which are rendered useless if the birds are massacred on reaching Cyprus.

Since 2002 Government measures, which have included overnight raids on trappers and surprise raids on Tavernas, there is a fierce resistance by trappers in the Famagusta region, who are also supported by some of the local authorities and local MPs. One of the restaurateurs caught red-handed was a member of a local authority!

This from the Cyprus Mail: THE BI-ANNUAL Bird Protection Report released on Wednesday accused the authorities of hampering environmental groups’ efforts to document and prevent the illegal poaching of song birds. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the Foundation Pro Biodiversity (SPA) conducted a study between April 5 and May 5 to collect data and enforce anti-poaching laws in joint operation with Cypriot police. However, political opposition, first from disgruntled hunters and later from the justice ministry, halted efforts to confiscate hunting traps, the report said. “This capitulation to pressure by undemocratic and criminal elements epitomises environmental injustice and public disorder – the exact opposite of the mandate of the ministry,” the report said, in a scathing attack. (August 2013).

Lime Sticks & Mist Nets

Lime-sticks are twigs, about a metre long, which are covered in an extremely sticky ‘glue’ made by boiling up the fruit of the Syrian plum-tree. These sticks are placed in bushes, or sometimes inserted into the ends of bamboo poles, to provide very inviting perches for birds. Any bird landing on a lime-stick becomes stuck, falls upside down, and as it flutters to free itself it becomes progressively more attached to the stick. The birds do not usually die quickly: this is a long, lingering death, which may only occur when the trapper arrives to cut their throats or crush their heads.

The manufacture, sale, ownership, and use of lime-sticks is illegal, but the law has been very widely flouted: bunches of lime-sticks have, until this year, been openly on sale, even in tourist-frequented markets, and their use is very widespread. The use of lime-sticks for bird-trapping goes back for centuries, and in the past was a means by which poor people supplemented a meagre diet.

Mist-nets are very fine filament nets, up to ten metres high which can be strung end-to-end to make invisible ‘walls of death’ for the birds. These nets may be stretched across water-courses, or between trees and bushes (which are often planted and irrigated solely for the purpose of attracting birds for trapping). The importation of mist-nets into Cyprus is illegal, but thousands are smuggled into the country and acquired by the trappers.  Unlike the use of lime-sticks, netting in Cyprus is not a traditional activity.

Wild birds trapped and consumed in Southern Europe

Sadly, Cyprus is not alone in its relentless pursuit of migratory songbirds in the Mediterranean region.  Egypt, Albania, Italy, Spain, Malta and France are all known to trap wild birds for the table – and profit!

Wild birds – feeding the rich & famous

French President Mitterrand died in Paris on 8th January 1996 at the age of 79 from prostate cancer, a condition he and his doctors had concealed for most of his presidency.  A few days before his death, he was joined by family members and close friends for a last meal that has attracted some attention; in addition to other gourmet dishes, the supper included the serving of roast Ortolan Bunting, a small wild songbird, a Presidential favourite.  The Ortolan Bunting  is a protected species, whose sale is (and was at the time) illegal in France.

North Cyprus Society for the Protection of Birds & Nature – KUSKOR

If any visitor would like to receive more information about the Birds of Cyprus, you are invited to contact KUSKOR at  or 00 90 (0) 392 815 5742 or visit the website at

Click here to read our previous review “Cyprus losing millions in tourism revenue over bird trapping”

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