Researchers working on the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project have recorded the return of Malta’s oldest ever Scopoli’s Shearwater (Ċiefa) on record to her nesting site.

Birdlife said that captured after 28 years, the bird, a female first ringed by seabird ornithologist John J. Borg along the southern cliffs of Malta in 1985 with ring number FF00712, breaks the previous record for Malta’s oldest Scopoli’s Shearwater by six years.

Dr Benjamin Metzger, Head of Research for the project, said “We know this bird is at least 30 years old, as she was already a breeding adult when she was first ringed 28 years ago.”

Scopoli’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea), previously known as the Cory’s Shearwater, are increasingly being recognised as a distinct species, with the Mediterranean population being separated from other populations such as those of the Azores and Canary Islands, making Malta’s estimated 5,000 breeding pairs a more globally significant population.

Like other shearwater species, pairs of Scopoli’s shearwater remain faithful
throughout life and have a very low reproductive rate raising only a single
chick each year. Such a biology, coupled with threats of illegal hunting, fishing by-catch and disturbance by humans such as light and noise pollution, make the Scopoli’s particularly vulnerable to population declines.

“Given the perils this female shearwater has faced throughout its life, a 30
year lifetime is one remarkable feat,” said Dr Metzger, adding that this bird has probably managed to raise quite a few generations of Scopoli’s over the years.

Birdlife said last Monday night, project researchers endured a barrage of shots aimed at shearwaters at the limits of Hal Far. Birzebbuga police responded to the call however the culprits could not be identified.

The LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is an EU funded initiative with project
partners BirdLife Malta, the RSPB (BirdLife UK), SPEA (BirdLife Portugal)
and the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate
Change. The project’s aim is to identify important sites at sea for Malta’s
seabirds with the aim of proposing such areas as Natura 2000 sites.

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