Record of stranded Scopoli’s Shear­wa­ters

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

This Oc­to­ber BirdLife Malta re­ceived the high­est num­ber of stranded Scopoli’s Shear­wa­ters ever.

After BirdLife Malta’s call to the pub­lic early in Oc­to­ber to re­port any sight­ings or find­ings of young Scopoli’s Shear­wa­ters (Ċiefa) which may have be­come stranded dur­ing their first flight, BirdLife Malta has re­ceived the high­est num­ber ever.

In Oc­to­ber BirdLife Malta res­cued 21 stranded Scopoli’s Shear­wa­ter fledglings, a num­ber which has been on the in­crease since the late 1980s. Oc­to­ber marks the fledg­ing sea­son for Scopoli’s Shear- wa­ters, when these se­cre­tive seabirds be­gin to fledge from their nests for the first time from within the cliffs. Fledg­ing at night, these young birds use the light of the hori­zon to guide them away from the coast, how­ever the in­creas­ing threat of on-land light pol­lu­tion can dis­ori­en­tate the birds caus­ing them to be­come stranded in­land, end­ing up in roads, seafronts, towns and other ur­banised ar­eas, and un­able to fly back out to sea whilst putting their sur­vival in dan­ger.

This year, the ar­eas from where the largest num­ber of stranded Scopoli’s Shear­wa­ters were re­cov­ered were Ħal Far, Ċirkewwa and Birżeb­buġa in Malta to­gether with Xlendi and Xewk­ija in Gozo.

All of these have no­table sources of light pol­lu­tion such as in­dus­trial ar­eas, ports or seafronts. The ex­cep­tion were three birds in Xewk­ija which ended up stranded in the foot­ball pitch due to the strong lights.

In the com­ing years BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija pro­ject will be work­ing to de­crease the light pol­lu­tion in coastal ar­eas that af­fect the shear­wa­ters to avoid such strand­ings in the fu­ture.

The birds dis­cov­ered this year were re­trieved by the pub­lic or by BirdLife Malta mem­bers. They were then passed on to BirdLife Malta and were checked, ringed and re­leased in safe ar­eas. We would like to thank all those who have re­ported stranded birds. The stranded birds which are found are only a small amount of the to­tal that be­come dis­ori­ented. Birds stranded on land may get run over in streets or at­tacked by cats or dogs and never found, but thanks to the in­crease in pub­lic aware­ness of these birds, BirdLife Malta has been able to res­cue many more.

We would like to en­cour­age the pub­lic to con­tinue re­port­ing stranded seabirds they may en­counter to BirdLife Malta. The next cru­cial pe­riod when the pub­lic’s help will be needed is dur­ing the Yelk­ouan Shear­wa­ter (Garnija) fledg­ing pe­riod in June-July 2017.

In the event of find­ing a stranded chick, BirdLife Malta urges the pub­lic to place it gen­tly into a card­board box and keep it in a quiet place, then call us im­me­di­ately on 2134 7644 (of­fice hours) or 7925 5697 (emer­gency out of of­fice).

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