Rare protected booted eagle shot down

Pellet larger than permitted by law found in bird's abdomen

Photo: Nick Piludu, BirdLife

Photo: Nick Piludu, BirdLife

A protected booted eagle was shot down over Girgenti yesterday, BirdLife said.

This was a month to the day when an exceptional eagle migration over Malta had led to the illegal shooting of at least 10 out of 60 rare eagles.

The booted eagle is a very rare eagle species for Malta and reports that one was observed flying over the airport were first received yesterday at around midday.

The eagle was lost over Girgenti following other reports which BirdLife received that shots were being fired at it as it flew over the valley.

It was around an hour later that fresh information led BirdLife Malta staff to retrieve the raptor from Girgenti Valley.

The bird, which was not moving, was immediately visited and diagnosed by a doctor.

After taking an X-ray, the vet certified that the bird suffered grievous injuries due to gunshots and it was decided it should be euthanised. The eagle had its right leg broken and a pellet in its abdomen which was larger than permitted by law – indicative of the intent to specifically target birds of prey.

The booted eagle is a medium-sized mostly migratory bird of prey with a wide distribution in the Pale-arctic and southern Asia, wintering in the tropics of Africa and Asia. It is considered as the smallest eagle in Europe.

Since the start of the autumn hunting season in September, BirdLife rescued and ensured veterinary care for around 100 injured birds. These ranged from the protected booted eagle, the iconic peregrine falcon to countless trushes, quail and starlings, it said.



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