Nets on the Atlantic coast
Lark trapping in south-west France
The Skylark population is in free fall in almost all European countries. This familiar bird of the fields in the open countryside seems doomed to extinction. In France some 1.8 million birds land in the frying pan or on the grill every year, most of them caught in nets.
Although shooting of Skylarks is permitted in France, as in other Mediterranean countries, four French Départements also allow trapping of the endangered species in nets. In the Bordeaux region of Aquitaine 10,000 trapping installations with gigantic trapping nets lies between the migrating birds and their winter destinations in the south. The dunes on the Atlantic coast and the harvested fields in the immediate hinterland are full of nets in autumn.
Live decoy birds are used as lures. The larks trapped for this purpose are tethered by their feet and are connected to the trapper who sits in a hut at the edge of the installation, by a long cord. When birds approach the nets the trapper pulls on the cord and the decoy bird starts to flutter its wings. At the same time the trapper mimics Skylark calls on a pipe and so lures a whole flock to their doom. When enough birds have landed the trapper releases a mechanism and the nets, several hundred square metres in area, clap together over the birds.
As if this wasn’t enough, two Départements also allow each trapper to set out up to 300 cage traps for larks!
More than 3,000 bird trappers are officially licensed to catch larks. The trapping quota varies in each Département - in Gironde for instance each trapper can catch 336 larks annually. Altogether one million Skylarks can legally be trapped in France every year; the true figure is probably a few hundred thousand inexcess of this figure.