The Maltese Islands host three of the most endangered species of seabirds in the world. Storm-petrel, Yelkouan Shearwater, Scopoli’s Shearwater see more in BirdLifeMalta. The Maltese Islands are also located on the Europe-Africa migratory flyway of many birds species who choose the Maltese archipelago as resting land during the long journey from European breeding grounds to African wintering grounds and vice-versa. For this reasons, it is imperative to create a safe and protected habitat, where birds can live safely, and we can admire these fascinating animals.
Seabirds brief description
Seabirds are birds adapted to live in the marine environment on which they depend throughout their life cycle.
The shape of the wings varies depending on the species; they have salt glands that allow them to eat and drink salt water, the plumage is waterproof. These are some adaptation that seabirds had to face to live close to the ocean.
The fishing behaviour and shape of the body depend on the type of food they eat, crustaceans, molluscs, small and bigfishes etc. Seabirds can use four different types of hunting strategies: surface feeding, pursuit diving, plunge diving and predation of higher vertebrates; for example, two species present in Malta Storm Petrel and Shearwater eat with surface feeding strategy. The Storm-petrel while flying the Shearwater while swimming. Most species nests in colonies and tend to always return to the same territory to nest. Many seabirds make long migrations to reach the breeding colonies; other never move farther away like the Storm Petrel.
Storm Petrel pic. by Ben Metzger BirdLife Malta
Large numbers of globally protected seabirds nest in Malta. With seabird populations declining across the world, local conservation efforts are essential for safeguarding global biodiversity. To protect birds that spend most of their life at sea, protection of key marine areas is just as necessary as that of breeding sites on land.
The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is the most significant seabird conservation project carried out in Malta. Through extensive and innovative research, the project had identified areas at sea essential for Malta’s seabirds and created an inventory of marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – areas at sea that are most frequently and intensively used by seabirds in high numbers.
BirdLife Malta’s EU-funded LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project aims at securing the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater, a small shearwater species that can only be found in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean region.
The Maltese Islands are home to approximately 10% of the global population of this seabird species. Therefore their protection is essential on the worldwide scale, especially with the drastic declines Yelkouan Shearwaters have been facing over the last decades.
The species has been recently listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and is protected by several international conservation agreements, as well as local legislation. It is listed under Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. Source BirdlifeMalta