A little more than a week ago, BirdLife Cyprus‘s field trip officer Stavros Christodoulides was put into contact with a Larnaca-area taxidermist who reportedly had been given three Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax to stuff over the last two years. Why is that interesting, you ask? Because the presence of Little Bustards in Cyprus is news to just about anyone who studies or tracks birds. They were never common here, but none has been reported since 1998. Stavros visited the taxidermist to see the specimens for himself, and they’re the real thing. He took a few pictures and I’m sure will write-up a report for either the monthly newsletter or the quarterly magazine for BirdLife Cyprus. I will of course post that when it comes out.
Unfortunately it was the hunters who found the birds, as seems to be the case too frequently – hunters outnumber birders by at least 500:1 in Cyprus, and many hunters will specifically target rare and protected birds when they notice them.
Are there regularly Little Bustards here that go unseen though? Maybe. They prefer open grassland and fallow farmland for habitat, which is plentiful enough and remote enough to not get checked by those few individuals on the island interested in sighting and recording uncommon birds. Geographically, Cyprus is the right area however, smack-dab in the middle of its range from southern Europe and northwest Africa to central Asia.
More information to come when I see it in print or online.
- IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax. Downloaded on 13 November 2009.