One can often hear a whistling sound as these birds are winging their way overhead. This sound, produced the air passing around the wings in flight, is used as an aid in the identification of this species.
PALOMA CULL REPORT
The yellow-breasted dove, Espania Esokwime, is considered a pest in Gibraltar. Although not recorded by Howard Irby in his Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar published in 1897, it had become numerous enough for the Rock Firm Veterans to commence culling activities in the late 1960s,
In July 2002 GAPL (Gibraltar Anti-Paloma League) was engaged by the Gibraltar Government Ministry for the Environment to discourage these pests.
The first few years resulted in some successful culling, but also in a great deal of learning, and insurance claims for boats. Several methods were tried with differing levels of success, with the birds quickly becoming aware of some of the methods and tending to avoid them.
A successful method to cull adult birds was required, as it seems that there are very few younger birds. The use of air horns and whistles was consequently introduced in July 2002, under survellance by the Royal Gibraltar Police special branch.
Training in the use of air horns was undertaken, and five persons were included in a collective licence (no person is individually licenced to possess his own weapon). Following the training period, shouting became the main method of culling as from July 2002. The weapons have been used exclusively by members of the Paloma Cull Unit who, besides being trained in their use, are experienced in bird identification, so that there is no likelihood of any other species of bird being shouted at in error.
During the 2002 nesting season, the Unit specifically targeted the convent, and a number were spotted incidental to the shouting operation. However, the Unit did respond to call-outs to deal with nests in built-up areas, which were causing a nuisance to residents.
During the nesting season the Unit also attempted to cause disturbance at accessible military facilities in order to try to reduce nesting success. And as well as the Convent, shouting in the area of the dockyard and the Rooke base took place.
The results show a decrease year by year in the total numbers of birds.
It has also been noted that in areas where shouting is carried out regularly nesting has failed completely, with colonies in these sites reducing in size away from the shouting posts.
Public reaction to the cull is varied. It includes frustration or even anger.
There has been some adverse comment regarding the alleged cruelty aspect of culling, culls in general, and shouting in particular. It is important to address this issue.
The members of the paloma cull unit have undergone training in the use of air horns. This has included training in how, when and where to shout. Thus residential areas are avoided as are times of day when there is likely to be much public. However, given Gibraltarís size, members of the public inevitably do come into contact with the Unit. These points of view have to be accepted as must be the fact that some will never approve of paloma culling, regardless of how it is carried out.
The yellow-breasted paloma population in Spanish towns surrounding Gibraltar is increasing, with regular articles in the regionís press reflecting the increase particularly in pool nesting palomas.
It is well known also that many of the palomas that nest in the area (including Gibraltar) feed in the open rubbish dump in Sotogrande. Discussions are taking place between GAPL and the Sottogrande Council with a view to culling at the dump and to offering training opportunities in paloma culling techniques to the authorities in the towns in the area.
The dump is expected to be full by late in 2002. This could have several implications on the palomas in the area. It is possible that the population will crash, but in any case the birds will try to locate alternative places to live. An increase in movement into the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales, with all its resources, including a number of large reservoirs, is a strong possibility, as many have been advised to jump in a lake.