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Ta’ Xbiex, Malta

Raine A.F.,Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project | Borg J.J.,National Museum of Natural History | Raine H.,BirdLife Malta | Phillips R.A.,Natural Environment Research Council
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2013

Although the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, with many populations in serious decline, there is little detailed information on the location of its key foraging areas during the non-breeding season. To address this knowledge gap, adult Yelkouan Shearwaters at a breeding colony in Malta were fitted with geolocators in 2 consecutive years. Of the 13 birds tracked (two of which were tracked in both years), the majority (n = 10; 76. 9 %) migrated in June-July to spend most of the non-breeding period in the Black Sea (n = 5), Aegean Sea (n = 2), Black and Aegean seas (n = 2), or Black and Adriatic seas (n = 1). The final three birds remained within the central Mediterranean area and did not move beyond 500 km of the breeding colony. There was considerable variation among individuals in terms of timing of the outward and return migrations, duration and location of periods of residency in different areas, and migration routes. However, migration patterns (including routes and areas visited) were very consistent in the two individuals tracked in consecutive years. All birds returned in November or December to waters closer to the breeding colony, concentrating between the North African coast and the southern Adriatic. This study has identified key areas during the non-breeding season for Yelkouan Shearwaters from Malta which are also likely to be important for other populations. Given the continuing decline of this species throughout its range, this information represents an essential step for improving international conservation efforts. At-sea threats in the wintering regions include by-catch in long-line and trawl fisheries, impacts of over-fishing, illegal hunting (particularly in Maltese waters), ingestion of plastics, pollution, and the potential impact of off-shore wind farms. These threats need to be addressed urgently in the areas identified by this study to prevent further declines. © 2012 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.


Oppel S.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Raine A.F.,BirdLife Malta | Borg J.J.,National Museum of Natural History | Raine H.,BirdLife Malta | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Many seabird species are experiencing population declines, with key factors being high adult mortality caused by fishery by-catch and predation by introduced predators on nesting islands. In the Mediterranean, both of these pressures are intensive and widespread. We studied the adult survival of an endemic Mediterranean seabird, the Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), between 1969-1994 and 2007-2010 in Malta and between 2004-2010 in France using mark-recapture methods. Mean annual survival probabilities for breeding adults were below 0.9 for all colonies and periods. Between 1969-1994, annual survival for adults of unknown breeding status was on average 0.74 (95% confidence interval: 0.69-0.80) in Malta, possibly as a result of various human disturbances (including illegal shooting), light pollution and fisheries by-catch. Over the period 2004-2010, we found strong support for variation in adult survival probabilities between breeders and non-breeders, and islands with and without introduced predators in France. Survival probabilities for non-breeders (0.95, 0.81-1.0) appeared to be higher than for breeders (0.82, 0.70-0.94), but were imprecise partly due to low recapture probabilities. In Malta, we found evidence for heterogeneity in survival probabilities between two unknown groups (probably breeders and non-breeders), and seasonal variation in survival probability. Birds were more likely to survive the period including the peak breeding season than an equally long period during which they roam widely at sea. Although annual adult survival probability was still low (0.85, 0.58-1.0), colony protection measures appear to have reduced mortality at nesting cliffs. A population model indicated that colonies in France and Malta would currently require continuous immigration of 5-12 pairs per year to maintain stable populations. Our estimates of adult survival probabilities over the past four decades are consistent with overall population declines. Threats to Yelkouan shearwaters require immediate management actions to avoid ongoing population declines in the western Mediterranean. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Raine A.F.,BirdLife Malta | Raine H.,BirdLife Malta | Borg J.J.,National Museum of Natural History | Meirinho A.,Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves
Ringing and Migration | Year: 2011

Satellite tags were attached to ten juvenile Yelkouan Shearwaters from a breeding colony in Malta to study post-fledging dispersal patterns. Of the eight birds with usable data, all moved eastwards almost immediately after leaving their nest sites. The majority of birds migrated to the islands off the western coast of Greece with one then moving on into the Aegean Sea and another to the South Adriatic Basin. While most birds migrated to Greek waters, two followed a different route, undertaking a wide circuit of the eastern Mediterranean and eventually ending up along the northern coast of Africa. The bird that transmitted for the longest period (68 days) was last recorded in the northern Aegean where it had spent the majority of the time. This study has shown that Maltese Yelkouan Shearwaters range over a large area during the first few weeks of fledging and follow widely varying routes. It has also demonstrated the importance of Greek waters for juvenile Yelkouans from Maltese colonies. The difficulty in tracking juvenile Yelkouan Shearwaters using this method has been highlighted by this study, and it is suggested that further methods are explored to track juvenile birds during the months after fledging. © 2011 Copyright British Trust for Ornithology.


Raine A.,BirdLife Malta | Borg J.J.,National Museum of Natural History | Raine H.,BirdLife Malta
Ringing and Migration | Year: 2011

Three juvenile Cory's Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea diomedea were fitted with back-mounted satellite tags and tracked during post-fledging migration. The birds spent several weeks in the central Mediterranean before migrating westwards. Two tags stopped transmitting after 21 and 35 days; the third bird passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and along the West African coast until transmitting ceased after day 43, by which time it was 114.6 km off the coast and 4,390 km from Malta. Cory's Shearwaters from other Mediterranean islands winter further south in equatorial waters, in the eastern South Atlantic or in the northeast tropical Atlantic associated with the Canary current, and further research is needed to define the wintering areas of Maltese Cory's Shearwaters. © 2011 Copyright British Trust for Ornithology.


Brochet A.-L.,BirdLife International | Van Den Bossche W.,Downing Street | Jbour S.,BirdLife Middle East Regional Office | Ndang'Ang'A P.K.,BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat | And 47 more authors.
Bird Conservation International | Year: 2016

Illegal killing/taking of birds is a growing concern across the Mediterranean. However, there are few quantitative data on the species and countries involved. We assessed numbers of individual birds of each species killed/taken illegally in each Mediterranean country per year, using a diverse range of data sources and incorporating expert knowledge. We estimated that 11-36 million individuals per year may be killed/taken illegally in the region, many of them on migration. In each of Cyprus, Egypt, Italy, Lebanon and Syria, more than two million birds may be killed/taken on average each year. For species such as Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, Eurasian Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, House Sparrow Passer domesticus and Song Thrush Turdus philomelos, more than one million individuals of each species are estimated to be killed/taken illegally on average every year. Several species of global conservation concern are also reported to be killed/taken illegally in substantial numbers: Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata, Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca and Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca. Birds in the Mediterranean are illegally killed/taken primarily for food, sport and for use as cage-birds or decoys. At the 20 worst locations with the highest reported numbers, 7.9 million individuals may be illegally killed/taken per year, representing 34% of the mean estimated annual regional total number of birds illegally killed/taken for all species combined. Our study highlighted the paucity of data on illegal killing/taking of birds. Monitoring schemes which use systematic sampling protocols are needed to generate increasingly robust data on trends in illegal killing/taking over time and help stakeholders prioritise conservation actions to address this international conservation problem. Large numbers of birds are also hunted legally in the region, but specific totals are generally unavailable. Such data, in combination with improved estimates for illegal killing/taking, are needed for robustly assessing the sustainability of exploitation of birds. © 2015 BirdLife International.

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