With its neat cap of black plumage upon its head, the little male Blackcap is quite unmistakable.
Though a woodland bird, it’s a common and much-beloved sight in parks and gardens across Europe, where it comes in search of fruit and berries. Bird lovers, fond of its beautiful song – a rich musical whistling with a wide variety of notes – would be shocked to discover the dangers this “mock nightingale” faces on its migratory journey.
In the Mediterranean, songbirds have been trapped for food for centuries. But the illegal, industrial scale trapping taking place in Cyprus today is nothing like past traditions. Lucrative demand for black market ‘ambelopoulia’, a so-called local Blackcap “delicacy”, is driving the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
At trapping blackspots, like the British Sovereign Base Area at Dhekelia and the Famagusta district, trappers use huge mist nets and glue sticks. These non-selective methods are not only a death trap for Blackcaps, they also pose a danger for more than 150 other bird species, including iconic birds such as the European Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike and Scops Owl. Unwanted birds are simply killed and discarded.
Another cruel twist is the use of electronic calling devices to lure birds in huge numbers to their tragic fate. Captured birds, if they don’t die from shock, usually remain trapped and distressed for hours.
For more information on the legislation covering this species, as well as maps and research, check out: http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/eurasian-blackcap-sylvia-atricapilla