Posted by: Dan | November 1, 2008

Open Season in Cyprus

This is part of the series of posts Poaching in Cyprus FAQ

What is the legal hunting season?

With bird hunting being such an entrenched part of Mediterranean culture that illegal hunting continues at high levels in countries such as Cyprus, Birdlife Cyprus has some information clarifying just what legal open season is.

Season usually opens around 20th of August every Wednesday and Sunday (4-6 hunting days). Legal species: Turtle dove, Woodpigeon.

September – October.
Daily at limited coastal areas. (35-40 hunting days). Legal species: Turtle dove, Woodpigeon.

November – December
Every Wednesday and Sunday. The season opens between 1st and 7th November (16-19 hunting days). Thrushes, Woodpigeon, Chukar Partridge, Black Francolin, Quail, Woodcock.

January – February.
Open season starts at the beginning of January every Wednesday and Sunday (16-19 hunting days). Some areas are open daily. Legal species: Woodpigeon, Woodcock, Thrushes, Skylark, Geese and Ducks.

Contrast those bird species with the rough figures for hunting of birds not on this list, via the RSPB:

An estimated 3.7 million birds are shot every year, of which around 750,000 are shot illegally by an irresponsible minority.

Small birds, and especially Blackcaps, migrating through Cyprus are trapped for sale nationally as the Cypriot food delicacy, ambelopoulia. This trapping peaked around 2000-2001 when at least 10 million birds were trapped each year.

Because the trapping methods are non-selective, 150 species are known to have been caught in the traps. More than a third (58 species) of these are species of conservation concern, including the Lesser Kestrel, which is vulnerable to global extinction. Two other species that are trapped breed only in Cyprus – the Cyprus Warbler and the Cyprus Wheatear.

Lime sticks are the traditional trapping method. Most birds are now trapped in autumn using mist nets, often lured by recordings of bird song. Large-scale commercial trapping operates especially between September and October. Most trapping occurs in the Famagusta District in the south-east, including on the British Sovereign Base Areas.



  1. Useful information for hunters . I wish they respect the hunting rules.I have read that the authorities in Cypros have arrested 2 illegal hunters , who have killed 52 threatened Red-footed falcons.

  2. actually, I dis agree with the open season itself whatever the reason. we a the people who hav the duty to save the world,,,not to destruct it. open season is a form of rouge act. I just giv a suggest, dont buy wild animal and other to reduce the level of hunt

  3. Mr. Bonce, I disagree with your suggestion. In the old times people had to hunt for a living, was it considered a rouge act then? Its like fishing, its a hobbie and there are numerous hunters in Cyprus. If hunting is reduced there will be other rising problems.

  4. The tendency shows that government starts to solve problem when they face it. The problem already exists! But Cyprus government is still sleeping. Fish quantity in dams is reduced. Animals, Birds quantity in fields is reduced! What they are waiting for!!!

    They even doesn’t know that some bustards put nets in dams! I hate them!!! Fishing department does not do anything to solve that problem! They think that every fisherman has fishing license! But it is not truth.. I believe that only 20% has fishing license!!!

    Hope that problems will be solved soon!

  5. I live in Avgorou and am fed up with being wakened up while it is still dark every morning by these morons shooting tiny songbirds. ..sounds like they are only around the corner from my house it is so loud – about 5.45 a.m. currently – and it goes on until about 9 o’clock. It is seriously affecting my beauty sleep! (and boy do I need it). God forgive me I am so fed up , I wish they would accidently shoot each other! If the turkish army were to cross the line and invade, who would know the difference as every morning it sounds as if all hell is letting loose here?

  6. I live in Tochni, the manic hunting is out of control. They sit on the road, shot anything that moves, next door to hunting prohibted signs. I wish they would shoot each other. I fear for my dog..You know that advert ” Love Cyprus” Does the goverment think gun pellets, discarded Mr Brown cans and dead hunting dogs is attractive?

  7. Sleeping beauty I understand where you are coming from. I live at Achna Dam and here there is no such thing as hunting season, they shoot all through the night and day, it never stops. I have swore at them, had the anti poaching team here who told me the bangs were from the bird scaring machine and was told to call them again when I heard the shots yet everytime i ring nobody wants to know. They smear their car reg plates with mud and just completely ignore me. They clap when they manage to shoot a small bird, god forbid me if i had a gun because they have no respect for anyone.

  8. Vicke,
    I should mention that in your case, at Achna Dam, it is a cannon that fires regularly to scare the birds away from the farmer’s field. (I’ve been there – it’s also an excellent birdwatching location).

    Perhaps you should ask the farmer there to not fire this machine so often, or at all.

  9. I have lived and travelled around in Cyprus 10 years and I find it hard to believe there have ever been 10 million birds a year in Cyprus. As for the 3.7 million shot in a year ( 10000+ every single day throughout the year – no way)
    Just how are these estimates calculated, please explain as it is appears ficticious and extremely damaging to your cause.

  10. Pedro,
    This blog post is part of a FAQ I put together, and one of the other posts also part of that FAQ answers your question: How Does BirdLife Monitor Illegal Bird Trapping. There I link to the complete study describing how BirdLife Cyprus monitors trapping, and although it doesn’t emphasize it as much as it should perhaps, they do go to great pains to report estimates conservatively, based on a sound methodology.

    Additional estimates by international wildlife organizations estimates the population of birds in Europe for common species at several hundred thousand to several million birds (per species).

    For example for the Cyprus Warbler, which breeds only in Cyprus and nowhere else, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that there are 240 to 420 thousand individual birds.

    For widespread species, the numbers are 10-50 times higher, per species. That’s probably a couple billion birds from throughout Europe, that all pass over the Mediterranean twice a year.

    And indeed, on a good day in Spring or Autumn in Cyprus, you can see a LOT of birds.

  11. Some other population estimates of common European birds that live in or migrate through Cyprus:

    Song Thrush: 81,100,000-216,000,000 individual birds (decreasing slowly)

    European Robin: 137,000,000-332,000,000 individual birds (stable)

    Eurasian Blackcap: 79,800,000-196,000,000 individual birds (increasing slowly)

    Common Whitethroat: 56,800,000-150,000,000 individual birds (decreasing slowly)

    *That is a LOT of birds!!! And remember, there are over 300 species that live in or pass through Cyprus!

    **Yes, this means that 10 or 15 million birds killed of these species doesn’t have a terribly huge impact on wildlife. However many more species are killed in Cyprus each year than just these, including at least 60 rare and endangered species.

  12. Dan Thank you very much for your response. I have read the article link you posted and I actually live in Area 2. Am I reading this correctly in just 4 species a minimun of 353 million bird live or pass theough Cyprus p.a. That population and migration estimates appear to me hugely exagerated even for the whole of Europe. I also believe the method in the article of calculating these estimates to be incorrect.
    Please do not take me wrong senseless killing is wrong but so are the statistics.

  13. Pedro,
    Not quite – the >353 million birds all pass through or live in the Mediterranean as a whole for those species. Europe, and Cyprus for that matter, are in fact larger than I picture them to be too. But it is a big world.

    I’m all ears though how the method for counting/calculating birds trapped by BirdLife could be improved. If it makes sense I’d be happy to pass along the suggestions.

  14. More:
    *I noticed a couple hypertext links were broken. These are now fixed, and the FAQ can be found here now.

    *The link to the post on How Does BirdLife Monitor Illegal Bird Trapping is best supplemented by linking to the final trapping report for a given year (2009, for instance). There’s a lot more detail there on how the study is carried out.

    *And then there’s the post on how the reports gathered by the survey are calculated to get the final results.

    My sincere apologies for the broken or missing links if they were a problem, and if this is an information overload to anyone. I really do feel bad as I know this information is not well organized for easy reading.

  15. Based on that minimum figure 353 million (incidently the max quoted was 894 million) now for the whole of “the Mediterranean” still seems hugely excessive.
    But as far as Cyprus is concerned which is the original topic I suspect the real number of birds that live there together with those migrating through probably number less than 5 million.
    As for those trapped I estimate maybe 50,000 and shot may be 15000 and that’s based on the human population, shotgun numbers, number of hunting day and sheer common sense together with observation over 10 years. Kind of puts a different perpective on the original statistics. Now illegal shooting and that of protected species is a criminal act and is probably the same all over Europe.

  16. Pedro,
    Your estimates? You mean your guesses I think. I appreciate your concern and interest, but the data collected doesn’t lie. And the early data clearly showed that 10 million birds trapped per year in Cyprus in the late 1990’s is a conservative calculated estimate (not a guess off the top of someone’s head, like your guesses).

    Have you ever paid attention to how many tens of thousands of Sparrows are in Nicosia alone? Go to Makarios Avenue in Nicosia, near Eleftheria Square in Nicosia, and try to imagine how many more birds there are there in the trees above the street. 10,000? Then, try imagining how that many birds if, if not more, come and go on a daily basis in the Famagusta district for 4 months every year during the two migration periods, remembering that we’re now talking about 100-200km2 instead of 100-200m2 (one million times difference). That alone gives me a hypothetical estimate of 12 million birds, just for the Famagusta district. (10,000 x 120days). True, the guess of 10,000 may be a little high, but the comparison of area is almost certainly very low. So my guess would be that about 25 million birds pass through the Famagusta district every year, and I think that that’s a low guess.

    But yours and mine are just guesses. Let’s use calculations based on actually counted birds as a proper estimate, shall we?

  17. Dan I don’t dispute counted birds at all but the mutiplied formulation thereafter is wild. I know the places you mention in Nicosia very well and there are many birds maybe 10000 there, and for obvious reasons. However you can not assume from this they are the same density throughout the Island. Cyprus is approx 9000sqk, (about 450 sqm) and I serious doubt there are more that 500 birds average per sqk hence the 5m estimate. As far as is migration is concerned since there are 3 main routes over Cyprus an organised photo density grid count might be the best way to detrmine a fair accurate number.
    There are are approx 90000 shotgun licences issued and the vast majority, probably 80% are for Clay pigeon shooting which leaves about 20000 hunters maybe 10% of the male adult population who do not hunt just birds. The figure of 3.7 m birds over 80 hunting days represents 46250 per day or 10136 every day if seasons are ignored completely. Not a possibility even if clay pigeons were included.
    I think the best resolution is to print the facts ie the actual counts taken, areas concerned, species, and time/date without any formulation.

  18. Pedro,
    “However you can not assume from this they are the same density throughout the Island.”

    I didn’t. Go back and re-read my last comment.

    “Cyprus is approx 9000sqk, (about 450 sqm) and I serious doubt there are more that 500 birds average per sqk hence the 5m estimate.”

    In winter you might be right. But we’re talking about winter, summer and during migration for total population, and during migration alone for potentially trappable population. So you’re wrong on that basis: During migration, you can easily see more birds than in winter (on most days), and you can safely assume that most of these birds are completely different birds each day.

    So to repeat myself, if birds are 1 million times less dense than the estimate that you accepted, and are changing every day, you have 12 million birds. At least. For just Famagusta.

    Realistically and based on my prior experience, there could easily be ten times that in Famagusta alone, ignoring winter and summer resident birds, and still having my estimate of birds being 100,000 times less dense than the sparrow flocks in Nicosia.

    “I think the best resolution is to print the facts ie the actual counts taken, areas concerned, species, and time/date without any formulation.”

    That data is already gathered and described in the reports I’ve linked to. Once again: The Autumn 2008 report + annexes.

  19. Dan. Sorry to P you off. Not my intention I can assure you. I am anti mist nesting and limesticking.
    From my first post all I am interesting in is establishing bird numbers in Cyprus and there are very few stats available and those that are would seem highly exaggerated When statistics are mentioned they must be correct (e.g 100M2 is 20 times the area of 100k2 not a million)
    I have just managed to get into those reports and annexes on actual trapping stats and even more interesting and encouraging some downward trends in trapping.
    These however do not substantiate bird population, migration numbers or numbers shot.

  20. No, Pedro, there are a million square meters in a square kilometer. Check your math.

    1sq m = the area in 1m x 1m
    1sq km = the area in 1000m x 1000m = 1,000,000 sq meters.
    That’s a difference of a million, not 20.

    And yes I’ve checked the math in the annexes and in the reports in the past (when I initially asked BirdLife Cyprus for the data and wrote the blog posts), and it comes our correct.

  21. Also, Pedro,
    “These however do not substantiate bird population, migration numbers or numbers shot.”

    Yes that’s true. I’m refuting your claim that (paraphrasing): the total number of birds per year in Cyprus could not be as high as some of the claims for trapped and shot birds.

    I’ve shown:
    1) A ridiculously low estimate based on a straightforward extrapolation that shows a seasonal population for one small part of the island exceeds highest recorded estimates of trapped birds for a year.
    2) The methods, calculations and actual data used to calculate the yearly recorded trapping estimates. I don’t have older data to see for myself or show you because I haven’t asked for them from BirdLife’s staff, but it is reasonable to conclude that the older data was derived in as reliable a manner.

    I have not argued against your claim about hunting, because I have never seen any data on that myself and cannot attest to the veracity of that claim. … I do not know if the 3.7 million birds shot per year is reliable.

    Do you have any more questions now?

  22. Pedro, you are demonstrating wilful misunderstanding of the difference between scientific studies & census versus your “I think”.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, there’s lies, damned lies, and people who refuse to look at actual statistics in favour of gut feeling.

  23. Glendon Thanks for the critisism, please read my first post again. I was interested in knowing the bird population of Cyprus. Estimate not statistics were quoted which may or may not refer totally to Cyprus. However taking just the first species an estimate of 81.1 million to 216 million is hardly a statistic and they do require an explanation. If your bank balance was quoted with that range I am sure you would question it.
    Dan has kindly provided some real stats on trapped birds which are absolutely unquestionable. I have difference of opinion on the expanding formulation to the rest of the island.

  24. Pedro,
    No, I think Glendon has described you very well. You do indeed appear to be questioning meticulous surveys based on gut feeling.

    For example, just now you say: “first species an estimate of 81.1 million to 216 million is hardly a statistic.” No, it’s a responsible estimate based on collected data. Sometimes the data is more extensive than other times. It’s as simple as that.

    So please stop making a fool of yourself.

  25. Dan
    Firstly thank you for your patience in this matter, as mentiioned to Glendon I have absolutely no doubts on the data collected for trapped birds. We can agree to disagree on the expansion formulation. I mistook your metres2 for Miles2. In fact some trends in that report show some encouraging improvements since the late 90’s.
    Going back to my original question on birds in Cyprus I have now been on a number of ornithological organisation sites and there is little similarity, they do not agree amongst themselves and all quoted figures seem to have a range of approx 260%

  26. Dan Meticulous survey with results showing a range of 260% you are the fool,
    Pedro’s last word on the subject

  27. Pedro,
    That is still a thousand times more accurate (and responsible) to claim than your guesses, because it is based on the available data. How about you leave the conservation biology to the people who know how to be responsible scientists, okay?

  28. More for Pedro,
    “We can agree to disagree on the expansion formulation.”

    Right, you keep making guesses, and I’ll keep citing meticulously conducted surveys, and let’s see if you cease looking like the fool.

    ” I mistook your metres2 for Miles2.”

    You thought I estimated the area for one city block to be 100 sq miles?????

  29. Went out birding again yesterday, and spring migration is fully underway now.

    With this conversation in mind, I was thinking yesterday how only someone who has never been birding in spring and has no idea whatsoever what they’re talking about, could think that there are only 5 million birds in the whole of Cyprus in a year. Heck, there was probably 5 million new birds on the island yesterday alone. And there’ll probably be another 5 million tomorrow.

    So I think my point is that people who don’t know what they’re talking about should just shut up and learn.


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