New bird species confirmed in Akrotiri

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The Cyprus Rare Birds Committee has confirmed that the Akrotiri Environmental and Education Centre’s record of an African Desert Warbler last year is officially recognised as the first of its species on the island.

The African Desert Warbler is traditionally a sedentary bird better known for living on the breeding grounds of northwest Africa and not in the Cyprus climate.

Having initially submitted the record in April 2021, the good news was confirmed to Dr Thomas Hadjikyriakou, the manager at the Akrotiri Environmental Centre.

He explained the effort to have the species officially recognised: “The African Desert Warbler was recorded on the west of the Peninsula when it was seen feeding within Juniper maquis and Mediterranean phrygana, primarily on Phoenicean juniper and Thyme shrubs.

“The observation lasted for about two hours, during which the species was monitored and photographed.”

The African Desert Warbler is a small bird with a length of 11.5 centimetres and breeds in semi-arid areas from Western Sahara to West Libya.

Dr Hadjikyriakou said the bird prefers “sandy deserts sparsely vegetated with low shrubs and grasses, and it feeds mostly on small insects and some berries and seeds, foraging mostly on the ground and low vegetation”.

“This is a new species for Cyprus, and one that was not expected to be seen on the island as it is a largely resident species, found within its normal distribution, about two thousand kilometres away.

“The Akrotiri Peninsula is considered an area that has been well-researched from a bird perspective, but still new species are discovered, highlighting the need for further intensifying bird research.”