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Record year for stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings – BLM

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Record year for stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings - BLMBirdLife Malta has said that this year is proving to be a record year for stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings recovered by members of the public and released by the BirdLife Malta LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project team.

In a statement it said, “we would like to thank the public for responding to our call made in mid-June to rescue seabird chicks which become disorientated due to light pollution and helped to give these fledglings a second chance.”

BLM added that to date, this year has seen a record total of nine stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings recovered by members of the public in their fledging period between June and July.

“This marks an increase of two over last year’s numbers and is probably the result of our appeal to the public made in mid-June to help disorientated seabird chicks during the fledging season,” said BirdLife.

During this period, the young seabirds fledge from their nests in the cliffs at night for the first time. However, bright coastal lights leave them disorientated and some of them become stranded inland in urban areas, unable to fly back out to sea.

The recovered birds are inspected by a vet for any injuries they may have sustained. They are then rehabilitated and released once strong enough to fly.

Of the nine recovered, eight of the birds were successfully released at known shearwater colonies in Malta. BLM said that one bird unfortunately succumbed to the injuries it sustained when it ended up stranded in an urban area.

BirdLife Malt explained that during the early stages of the LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project, a thorough assessment was conducted in order to identify the major threats on land facing the breeding populations of shearwaters across the Maltese Islands, including light pollution.

Shearwaters are susceptible to becoming disorientated due to bright lights of developed areas along the coast, with fledglings being especially vulnerable. Shearwater activity near land increases significantly during the night when they return from foraging trips to their breeding colonies.

Those that become stranded are at high risk of predation by cats, colliding with buildings or vehicles, and dehydration.

Working together with the Light Pollution Awareness Group, levels of light pollution affecting the shearwater colonies were assessed. Areas with high levels of light pollution account for the vast majority of stranded shearwater fledglings.

Many Yelkouan Shearwater strandings occur within the coastal area from St. Paul’s Bay to Qawra, Cirkewwa to Armier, and Mellieha. BirdLife said that during the next two years, the project team will work alongside local councils and business owners to help reduce and mitigate the effects of light pollution.

BirdLife Malta concluded by saying that “the peak Yelkouan Shearwater fledging period has now passed. However, we would ask everyone to remain vigilant for stranded shearwaters over the coming months as Scopoli’s Shearwaters will begin to fledge towards the end of September and throughout October.”

Photo by Aaron Tanti – Yelkouan Shearwater

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