Mobsters in Cyprus Use Cartoon Tactics To Eliminate Nearly 400k Songbirds

Bonnie Taylor Barry /
Bonnie Taylor Barry /

Along a British military base in Cyprus, organized crime syndicates have lured in over 400,000 robins, swallows, and other songbirds. Like in a classic cartoon, they used decoys, speakers, and scents to lure the birds in. There, they would be caught in “mist” nets or found stuck to glue-coated branches.

Once captured, they would be sold off in underground markets to restaurants to create a local delicacy called “ambelopoulia.” Made of pickled or boiled songbirds, this is a meal offered by very few chefs, and per reports from BirdLife Cyprus had dropped down to 90,000 a year as of 2022. Their 435,000-body count by the start of autumn in 2023 set a record and posed a significant change for the birds.

Cyprus was a natural place for these kinds of problems, serving as a major stopover point for birds migrating from their breeding spots in Europe to their winter grounds in Africa. Birds dying off in record numbers in the UK are also among those being targeted. Blackcaps, flycatchers, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, reed warblers, and Cetti’s warblers are among those becoming thinned out especially hard.

Mark Thomas, the head of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) investigations, said, “We cannot allow the progress we have made to be undone and the shocking levels of songbird killings to return to the abhorrent levels we once saw. For two decades, our international partnership has shown that we can work together to tackle this criminal activity through direct action on the ground backed up by enforcement action. However, this autumn shows that more still needs to be done, particularly in the Republic of Cyprus.”

Criminal organizations have been resorting to strange and unusual tactics like this is nothing out of the norm, but this level of Looney Tunes is beyond expectations here in the US.