Posted by: Dan | October 20, 2008

Endemic Bird Areas in Cyprus

Via BirdLife International, there is a factsheet available on Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) in Cyprus:

Restricted-range species: The two restricted-range species occur in a wide variety of habitats, with Cyprus Warbler (Sylvia melanothorax being absent when breeding from the drier central plain, favoring Cistus scrub mainly in the Troodos mountains. Both species are migrants: Cyprus Wheatear (Oenanthe cypriaca (only recently recognized as a distinct species) to southern Sudan and Ethiopia, and Cyprus Warbler partially to Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and northern Sudan. A further five endemic subspecies have been recognized (more by some authorities), emphasizing the distinct nature of this island’s avifauna (see Flint 1995).

Threats and conservation: Clearance over many centuries (c.50% of the island is classed as farmland) and unrestricted grazing by goats have destroyed much of Cyprus’s original vegetation. There is no evidence that any woodland species have been lost as a result of deforestation, but in view of the greatly reduced habitat, the loss of species does seem very probable. It also seems likely that the distribution of some woodland species which are now confined to the forests of the Troodos range (the Paphos forest in particular) was more general in the past (Flint and Stewart 1983). Today the greatest threat to the habitat comes from increased tourism, with the construction of associated facilities, and the risk of fire during the dry summer months (WWF/IUCN 1994). The two restricted-range species, however, remain common (3,000-7,000 pairs for Cyprus Wheatear, more than 4,000 pairs for Cyprus Warbler) and widespread throughout the island, and are not considered to be globally threatened, although both are treated by Tucker and Heath (1994) as Species of European Conservation Concern with an unfavourable conservation status.

Hunting is a particularly serious conservation problem on Cyprus, and it is likely that shooting has contributed to the extinction of at least two species of breeding bird: Dipper (Cinclus cinclus (the endemic race olympicus) and the threatened Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), as well as causing a decline in numbers of many other resident species, especially raptors such as the threatened Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) (Vulnerable; only 2-4 pairs now remaining).

Cyprus’s geographical location relative to the western Palearctic and Africa results in some 200 species occurring as regular passage migrants, and many of these are subject to shooting, liming and netting. Although the island’s hunting regulations are fairly comprehensive, the enforcement of the laws is inadequate and thousands of birds of many species are illegally killed each year. Threatened species which occur on migration include Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala and F. naumanni) (all classified as Vulnerable).

Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii), classified as Conservation Dependent, is a seabird which has a small breeding population of 10-20 pairs.

Grimmett and Jones (1989) recognized a total of 17 Important Bird Areas on Cyprus. These include several sites which harbor the two restricted-range species, as well as sites for breeding birds of prey, and wetlands which are important for passage and wintering birds.


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