Far beyond the horizon - modern tracking techniques as a tool to identify marine IBAs for Maltese Seabirds.

  • February 22, 2015
  • by Ben Metzger, John J. Borg, Nicholas Barbara & Joe Sultana

Pelagic seabirds can make use of foraging grounds far away from their nest sites to provide their chicks with high quality food. Outside the breeding season, these birds carry out larger movements to reach sea areas of high productivity. In the past, seabird conservation in the Central Meditarranean largely focused on the terrestrial breeding grounds, and did not investigate aspects of the birds’ life at sea. In recent years, tracking devices have improved in size, weight and performance, helping to shed light on the seabirds’ movements, which are crucial to identify important areas at sea used during their lifecycle.

During the last years, BirdLife Malta has equipped Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan, Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea and Mediterranean Storm-petrels Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis breeding in the Maltese Archipelago with various tracking devices. During several breeding seasons, the movements of birds from different colonies were tracked with geolocators, GPS-loggers and radiotransmitters, respectively. The results of our tracking studies indicate that during the breeding period, pelagic seabirds nesting in the Maltese archipelago make use of Libyan, Tunisian, Italian as well as international waters. After the breeding season Scopoli’s Shearwaters leave the Mediterranean to winter in the Atlantic off the Western and Southwestern coast of Africa. The results highlight the importance of international collaboration in the designation of marine protected areas for pelagic seabirds in the Mediterranean and beyond.

PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303371437