A new video released by BirdLife Malta today shows never-before-recorded behaviour of a pair of Yelkouan Shearwaters, known as Garnija in Maltese, on their nest high up in the sea-cliffs at Majjistral Park, in the north west of Malta.
The footage was recorded by researchers from the EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project studying the birds at a newly discovered colony along the cliffs of Majjistral Nature and History Park that is a protected Natura 2000 area. Many of Malta’s 34 Natura 2000 sites can be found along the Islands’ extensive coastline, where the sea-cliffs provide a home for 10 percent of the world’s Yelkouan Shearwaters. (1)
The video shows a pair of brooding adult Yelkouans taking turns to sit on their egg, but takes a dramatic turn when an intruder enters the nest and needs to be chased off!
By a placing a trail camera with an infra-red light and sensor inside a cave where these threatened seabirds were found to be nesting the researchers were able to capture intimate video and sound of these birds that has previously been impossible to observe.
“It’s very exciting for us to be able to see what these birds are doing inside the caves where they have their nests,” said Dr Benjamin Metzger, Head of Research on the project.
“Such footage is helping us reveal more of their secretive lives and intricate social behaviour, which is a result of their colonial nesting habits.”
The Malta Seabird Project team have been working with the cooperation of the Park’s management to find out how many Yelkouan Shearwaters there are breeding on the cliffs at Majjistral, as well as fitting some of the adult’s with GPS tracking devices to learn where the birds from this particular colony go to feed during the day.
They have also been helping to organise public information events to help raise awareness of the presence of these threatened seabirds in the Park.
This evening, BirdLife Malta’s Falko youth group and Majjisttal Nature & History Park are inviting the public to a “shearwater listening” activity at Majjistral, where they will be able to hear the calling Yelkouans as they return to their nests after sunset. Sharp-eyed visitors might even catch a glimpse of the birds flying in from the sea below the cliffs.
The EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project aims to identify Marine Important Bird Areas for the three species of tubenose seabirds breeding in the Maltese Islands. The project is 50% funded by the EU’s LIFE unit, and is a partnership between BirdLife Malta, the RSPB (BirdLife UK), SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) and the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change
(1) BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Puffinus yelkouan. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2014.
(1) Yelkouan Shearwater nest cam video, recorded on 10th March 2014 in Majjistral. Footage recorded by Dr Benjamin Metzger, edit by Ella Beeson