Champions of the Flyway: Help us stop the slaughter of birds in Greece


A team from Birdwatch and BirdGuides will join this year's Champions of the Flyway bird race in Israel to raise funds to prevent the illegal killing of migrant birds in Greece.

The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners will race once more this spring at the annual Champions of the Flyway event to raise funds for bird conservation in the Mediterranean. The team was crowned Guardians of the Flyway in 2015 after raising more than £4,700 towards frontline protection work to help end the illegal killing of songbirds on a huge scale in Cyprus.

The Roadrunners will run again in the bird race in Israel on 29 March, competing against many other birding teams from all over the world to record as many species as possible on the day. The Guardians of the Flyway award is given to the team which generates the most funding for the chosen conservation project; in total the 2015 event generated more than £34,700 for BirdLife International conservation projects on the island.

The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners hope to raise even more money this time around, as well as draw attention to this year's project: stopping the illegal trapping and killing of birds in Greece. The event will collaborate with the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS), BirdLife's partner wildlife charity in Greece, and focus on two distinct topics: the illegal trapping and shooting of European Turtle Doves, Common Quail and other migrants on two of the most popular Greek tourist islands, Santorini and Zakynthos, and the illegal trapping of songbirds for the black market in cagebirds, which takes place on the mainland and on many of the islands. More than one million birds are killed every year in Greece across a broad front, while resident songbirds also suffer.

This Turtle Dove was injured during its migration across Greece, but was captured by conservationists and survived; many others are not so fortunate (Photo: Hellenic Ornithological Society).

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Champions of the Flyway is a project dedicated to preventing the killing of migratory birds in the Mediterranean region. Up to 36 million wild birds are killed by hunters and trappers every year across the region, despite EU legislation declaring such acts illegal. The aim of the project is to enable each country's conservation organisations and charities to tackle these pressing issues locally, while drawing attention to the problems they face internationally. The crisis in bird declines is partly caused by these large numbers of wildlife criminals, but the deaths can be prevented with targeted investment and mitigation.

The Roadrunners team line-up for 2016 features Birdwatch columnist, author and activist Mark Avery and Optics Editor Mike Alibone — back for his third race — along with this year's captain David Callahan, the magazine's Staff Writer. In 2015 the team also finished with a very respectable score of 154 species, and they will be hoping to better that this year.

If you would like to support this important cause, please visit the Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners' fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/BWBGR16 — every donation is greatly appreciated and goes direct to BirdLife International. You can read more about the team at www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/birdwatch-birdguides-roadrunners.

Written by: BirdGuides/Birdwatch