Every migration season, thousands of birds travel through the Algarve. Unfortunately, many songbirds make it no further: they are illegally trapped to be eaten as a delicacy, or sold as pets. John (whose name was changed to protect his identity) owns a farm in the region, where he rings birds as a hobby. SPEA, BirdLife’s partner in Portugal, contacted John while gathering data on illegal killing in the country. That’s how they discovered his innovative approach to measuring the extent of the problem – without souring relationships with his neighbours.
John placed boxes at local cafés, where local people could anonymously deposit any bird rings they came across. The boxes were a success – but painted a stark picture. They revealed that birds ringed all across Europe never made it past Portugal. In fact, 60% of the birds John had ringed himself never even left the area. Overall, nearly half of the birds (46%) were blackcaps.
To curb the illegal killing of blackcaps and other songbirds, SPEA has presented a petition to the Portuguese Parliament, arguing for a ban on producing, owning or selling bird traps. The petition, signed by over 4000 concerned citizens, is due to be discussed in Parliament in the coming months.