BETWEEN ONE and two million migratory pigeons have been arriving in Portugal over the past few days. Before the end of November, more than four million will inhabit the areas of Setúbal, Santarém, Évora and Portalegre, reveals Jacinto Amaro of Fencaça, the Portuguese hunting federation.
Migratory pigeons are not one of the 16 species at risk from the bird flu virus, listed by the Direcção-Geral de Veterinária (DGV), but they are not immune, according to some studies, which have identified carrier pigeons and town pigeons as being susceptible.
Luís Costa of the Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), the Portuguese society for the study of birds, points out that there have already been cases of bird flu registered in pigeons, but emphasises that there is no cause for alarm. “Until now, there has not been one single case involving a bird on our migratory route (Atlantic route),” he says.
Portugal is the destination chosen by pigeons due to the acorns, their basic staple diet. Two thirds of the migratory contingent arriving at the Iberian Peninsula this year will inhabit Portugal. The rest will divide themselves between various areas of Spain.
Jacinto Amaro says that, as far as hunters are concerned, not only safety and hygiene precautions must be followed when handling birds, but samples should be regularly submitted to maintain control of the situation. Amaro says that, due to the influx of migratory birds, every month Fencaça collects around 100 samples for analyses.