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Conservation of Bonelli's Eagle in Italy

CABS support Italian ornithologists‘ nest monitoring programme on Sicily

Nest robbers and illegal hunting in Europe threaten Bonelli’s Eagles with extinctionNest robbers and illegal hunting in Europe threaten Bonelli’s Eagles with extinction Sicily is home to the last Italian population of Bonelli's Eagle, the last Italian pairs of Egyptian Vultures and the largest European population of the Lanner Falcon ssp. feldeggii, highly localized in the rest of its range. The populations of these species have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades; the European population of the Egyptian Vulture is on the verge of extinction. Only 22 pairs of Bonelli’s eagle are breeding this year on Sicily.

The reason for the decline of these populations is, in addition to destruction of habitat and illegal hunting, the theft of eggs and chicks. Unscrupulous wildlife traders organise nest robberies in order to sell the cherished birds to falconers, bird collectors and other ‘bird lovers’ for large sums of money. In the past few years a large network of smugglers has been established to ‘export’ the rare bird species to the rest of Europe and eventually also to the Middle East.

CABS volunteer at her observation post not far from the eagle’s eyrieCABS volunteer at her observation post not far from the eagle’s eyrie In order to combat this worrying situation the Coordinamento Tutela Rapaci Sicilia task force was founded by Italian ornithologists and conservation organisations in 2012. The mission statement is to coordinate the monitoring of all nests of endangered species on Sicily threatened by the activities of the nest robbers. As the ‘most profitable’ bird, Bonelli’s eagle is high on the list of the conservationists and in future all nests of the species are to be monitored. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has committed itself to financial aid for the project as well as the coordination of volunteers from various European countries.

The "2014 Season" came to a successful end in July; no eagle's nests were disturbed. At least 27 young birds have flown from the 54 known nests. Some nests were so remote that monitoring them was barely possible - so there were probably more eaglets.

The nature tour operator Paradise Birding from Oregon (USA) has supported our campaign to protect Bonelli's eagles on Sicily in 2014 with a generous donation.