Waterfowl hunting season begins!

sezon polowań na ptaki

In September, children finish playing, going back to school, and it is not uncommon for adults to just start playing, hunting in water and mud areas. From the first day of the ninth month, the following can be harvested in Poland: coots, woodcocks, some species of wild geese (geese, white-fronted geese, as well as bean geese) and wild ducks (cyranchs, blackbirds, loggerheads and mallards). It’s September, so the bird hunting season has begun.

Bird hunting season – timeframe

The bird hunting season will mostly last until the end of the year. Only wild geese in most provinces are allowed to be shot for a slightly shorter period – until December 21. In Lower Silesia, Lubuskie, Greater Poland and West Pomerania – by the end of the month. Ornithologists are sounding the alarm that for several years now up to1/3 of the birds killed during legal hunting, theoretically carried out by experienced, honest hunters, are species protected by law in Poland and the European Community. Someone will say, “Oh there, oh there! After all, in our country, all native species are protected, even those that are very numerous and extremely harmful to the economy, such as the cormorant, herons and starlings.” The bird hunting season, which is now opening, is an opportunity for many people to carry out plans that are not always legal.

Of the species protected by Annex I of the Birds Directive and the Ramsar Convention, hunters often shoot: giraffes, grebes, mute swans, black-headed swans and white-headed gulls. Also recorded was the killing of, among others. White egrets, bitterns, doublets, terns or harriers (Skakuj, 2020).

bird hunting season
Waterfowl hunting season begins! 1

Bird hunting – a way to solve problems

Fish ponds and similar bodies of water (oxbow lakes, water-filled gravel pits) are favorite hunting grounds in our country. The legal harvesting of coots and wild ducks is accompanied by the death of species as scarce and close to extinction as the helmeted duck (abundance fluctuates significantly, recently estimated at 15-48 pairs nationwide) and the whitethroat (about 29-130 pairs nationwide) (Skakuj, 2020; Wilk et al., 2020).

Where do these kinds of mistakes come from?

  1. From limited visibility. Water and marsh birds are usually shot at dusk or dawn. Humans, being typically daytime visual, orient themselves at this time even worse than in the middle of the night, as drivers and traffic policemen are well aware. To make matters worse, the birds form mixed flocks, which makes it even more difficult to distinguish between them during the evening and morning grays (Skakuj 2020).
  2. From lack of knowledge and overconfidence. In theory, all hunters affiliated with the Polish Hunting Association or its foreign counterparts have undergone appropriate training, in addition to constantly improving their qualifications. In practice, people think we have one species each of wild goose, wild duck and water chick. While distinguishing species of wild ducks when observing mature drakes in mating garb is easy and fun (if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many amateur birders so quickly), distinguishing species in females, chicks, and finally males outside of the mating season is a higher school. It can be even more difficult to identify wild geese with weak sexual dimorphism. Hence the constant discussions among faunists about the actual abundance of many species, not to mention the listing of rare forms or those arriving sporadically (Skakuj, 2020).
  3. Cunning. Legal hunting in the fall and winter allows to “cover” poaching and extermination of species considered harmful to fishing and agriculture. The cormorant, gray and white egrets, bittern, bittern, harrier and osprey have been competing with fishermen and anglers for years. According to farmers, wild geese and ducks are responsible for losses in winter crops and hay meadows. Orchardists are anxious to finally solve the problem of starlings, which like to spend the night after reed beds. Even burning swallows in rushes and rushes has become socially acceptable since EU sanitary regulations extended to Polish barns and piggeries. Formally, it is even punishable by imprisonment.

A separate problem is the degree of threat to individual species on a Polish, EU and global scale. The blackbird is allowed to be hunted, although according to the latest Red List of Polish Birds it is as close to extinction as, say, the charismatic owl species: the eagle owl and the hairy owl, or the winged symbol of Bialowieza Forest – the three-toed woodpecker. All these species received the same threat category: near threatened – NT (Wolf et al., 2020).

bird hunting season
Waterfowl hunting season begins! 2

Bird hunting season spurs regulatory changes

Hunting and conservation regulations have not always kept up with changes in bird systematics. Suffice it to mention the recent separation of the widely covered Bean Goose into two species: the tundra goose and the proper, , much rarer in Poland, Bean Goose. The former was estimated at 67-203,000 in 2013-2018. of transient and wintering individuals, the other at only 7-23 thousand.

However, given the level of difficulty, comparable to the determination of large species of gulls and their hybrids, it must be admitted that the abundance estimates of the two critical species of geese are also heavily coarsened (Chodkiewicz et al., 2019; Krajewski, 2020). Those responsible for Polish legislation on this issue should look more closely at the topic. It may be too late to do so this year, as the bird hunting season has begun, but that doesn’t change the fact that in the future the regulations need to be amended and clarified.

The bird hunting season, which has begun, is one of the many challenges facing these creatures. You can read about another very important one in the article:“The impact of the growing water crisis on migratory birds.”

In the article, I used, among other things. From the works:

[1] Chodkiewicz T., Chylarecki P., Sikora A., Wardecki Ł., Bobrek R., Neubauer G., Marchowski D., Dmoch A., Kuczyński L. 2019 Report on the implementation of Article 12 of the Birds Directive in Poland in 2013-2018: status, changes, threats. Nature Monitoring Bulletin 20: 1-80.

[2] Krajewski Ł. 2020. Recognizing grain and tundra geese. Ornitho.co.uk https://www.pn ujsciewarty.gov.pl/plik,465,rozpoznawanie-gesi-tundrowej-a-zbozowej-artykul-z-ornitho-pl.pdf [5 .09.2023]

[3] Leap M. 2020. Problems of bird identification under hunting conditions. In: Coalition Let’s Live! (ed.) 2020. Request for moratorium on wild bird hunting https://issuu.com/moratorium/docs/moratorium/70 [4 .09.2023]

[4] Wolf T., Chodkiewicz T., Sikora A., Chylarecki P., Kuczynski L. 2020. Red list of birds of Poland. OTOP, Brands.

[5] https://www.pzlow.pl/gatunki-zwierzat/ [5 .09.2023]

[6] http://rybolowy.pl/ [5 .09.2023]

[7] https://pomorska.pl/za-zabicie-ptaka-mozna-trafic-do-wiezienia-nawet-na-dwa-lata/ar/7051737 [5 .09.2023]

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