The illegal killing of many threatened species is an ongoing conservation concern, especially in the Mediterranean region. This study provides quantitative data on non-game birds admitted with gunshot injuries to wildlife rehabilitation centres (WRC) of the Valencian Community (eastern Spain), over a 25-year period (1991-2015). A total of 2,076 shot non-game birds of 101 different species were admitted, including 112 individuals belonging to 17 threatened species. Raptors were the most affected group, comprising 74% of the total admissions. The number of yearly admissions was positively related to the number of issued hunting licences, and both declined over the study period. Evidently, illegal hunting occurred throughout the year, although it peaked during the official hunting season. The occurrence of birds admitted with gunshot wounds was higher in more densely populated municipalities and in those closer to WRCs. Our results show that illegal hunting of protected bird species prevails despite legislative efforts, and it could pose a major problem for some endangered species. Accordingly, it is necessary to focus current action to reduce illegal hunting in conflictive areas.—Crespo, J., Solís, I. & Barba, E. (2021). Illegal bird hunting in eastern Spain: a declining trend, but still worrying. Ardeola, 68: 181-192.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1