Save Our Shearwaters
Europe’s rarest seabird is the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), which breeds in the Mediterranean and migrates north up eastern Atlantic coasts in the summer. It is seen increasingly off Britain with perhaps ¼ of the world population visibly using our seas at times in late summer. But it is critically endangered, and faces as a species a deeply uncertain future. Despite this, still remarkably little is known about its behaviour and ecological needs: knowledge which must underpin conservation efforts to avert its extinction. At OxNav, continuing our project originally set up with scientists at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, we have been collaborating with Spanish biologists in Palma and elsewhere, with organisations such as the RSPB, Natural England, and SEO/Birdlife, and with the help of the Balearic Islands' government, to try to fill important knowledge gaps and raise awareness of the species’ plight. We have been engaged in answering fundamental questions about where and how breeding birds feed (and how this relates to human fisheries), where they overwinter, and their patterns of colony use in the pre-breeding months. We are now trying to determine the provenance of birds using UK waters, which we think may be non- or pre-breeders becoming increasingly dependent on our waters as the changing climate drives important marine resources north. And we are setting up longer term monitoring efforts to help assess key changes in breeding success, overwinter surivival, and patterns of breeding and migratory phenology.
You can help
Our research efforts have always depended on voluntary contributions of time, effort and funds, in addition to small awards from organisations. You can help us take the work on into the future by giving a donation, of any size, that we can use to help purchase essential tracking devices (a geolocator costs about £120 +VAT, and can be used to track an individual bird’s migration and pinpoint the timing of its key life-history events for several years), artifical nest boxes, or pay for boat fuel needed to visit the colonies. If you are interested in donating to our Balearic shearwater project you can do so by clicking here.
Balearic shearwater with a geolocator. Photo credit: Joe Pender
Infra-red camera trap photo of two Balearic shearwaters in one of the world's largest remaining colonies (photo OxNav)
Click here to view a recent letter to the Journal Science: "EU can help Spain's endangered seabird" by D. Oro and T. Guilford about the conservation measures required for Balearic shearwaters.