THESSALONIKI – This protracted period of bad weather has forced dozens of bird species that usually winter in wetlands in northern Greece to migrate to other parts of the country. Snow and extreme cold have frozen most of the lakes in Macedonia, preventing thousands of birds from finding food. According to the Ornithological Society many species have migrated south (to the Peloponnese, Crete and the Cyclades) in search of food. Meanwhile other birds, such as ducks and wild geese, which usually spend the winter in central Europe, have made their appearance in northern Greece in increasing numbers. Injured and exhausted There are two serious consequences, as Dimitris Bousbouras of the Thessaloniki Ornithological Society explains: «The birds wear themselves out in the search for food. They become disoriented and may die of exhaustion or end up on river banks or in small wetland habitats which are not part of protected areas. There, they might get shot by thoughtless hunters or be frightened away by the sound of gunfire.» Over the past few days, the Aegina Refuge for Wild Animals has received birds injured by shotguns and exhausted birds brought in from all over Greece. Many of these birds have lost 50 percent of their body weight and are close to death from dehydration and a lowering of the body’s defenses against parasites and infection. Polar temperatures and heavy snowfall have already mobilized hundreds of the Ornithological Society’s members, who have left out corn, lettuce and other food for birds in the Axios wetland habitat, the Aighio salt flats, Milos and elsewhere. Hunting Bousbouras says the solution is not to allow local forestry officials to decide whether hunting should be banned, as was done recently. He says the Ministry should ban hunting throughout Greece during protracted cold spells, because rare and other animals are the easiest targets for thoughtless hunters.