Ornithologists say three pairs of the peregrine falcon are known to be breeding in the archipelago for the first time since the 1980s
Adam Alexander, Valletta
Tuesday 6 October 2015 12.09 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 7 October 201500.01 BST
The return of the peregrine falcon to Malta, known to some as the “Maltese falcon”, has excited hopes that the iconic bird is making a comeback.
At least one breeding pair was caught on film last week by a German-based NGO, Campaign Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), and according to local experts there may now be as many as three pairs of breeding peregrine falcons on the Maltese archipelago for the first time since the 1980s.
“This is really good news and it probably shows that some of the young from earlier broods have returned to breed,” said Natalino Fenech, one of the local ornithologists who first discovered the birds. “The return and successful breeding of the peregrine is a good omen indeed, because it is the apex predator in our natural environment.”
According to experts from CABS, the falcons were filmed acting jointly to defend their territory from a harrier – a behaviour seen as the strongest evidence yet that the peregrine falcon is once again living and breeding here.
The bird of prey - which has a typical wingspan of three and a half feet and can drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200mph - is synonymous with Malta because of the deed signed by Charles V of Spain when the Knights of St John were granted the Maltese islands in fief, and had to pay a nominal rent of a falcon on All Saints’ day each year.