The first ever recorded sighting of the African desert warbler in Cyprus has been confirmed as the unexpected visitor from the Sahara made its way to the Akrotiri Peninsula.
“This is a new species for Cyprus, and one that was not expected to be seen on the island,” said Thomas Hadjikyriakou, the manager at the Akrotiri Environmental Centre in Limassol.
The small bird, with a length of just 11.5cm, is a desert sand-coloured insectivore and was found feasting within the low scrubland of Akrotiri – about two thousand kilometres away from where you’d expect to find it.
The sighting took place on April 19 of last year and the British bases announced on Tuesday that the Cyprus Rare Birds Committee confirmed the Akrotiri environmental centre’s record and officially recognised it as the first of its species in Cyprus.
Explaining the effort that went in to having the species officially recognised, Hadjikyriakou said: “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.”
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”.
Putting into context the significance of the discovery, he continued: “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 from Cyprus.
“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.”