More secrets revealed about Filfla Storm-petrels

July 26, 2019 10:27 am

– First time movements of Malta-ringed Storm-petrel to the Aegean Sea recorded by BirdLife Greece. Storm-petrel ringed in 2008 by BirdLife Malta on Filfla recovered in a colony on a Greek islet, meaning that the bird is over 11 years old
– In the same week, BirdLife Malta ringers on Filfla recapture a bird first ringed on the same islet in 1991, making it over 29 years old. Even this is not a record…back in 2013 a Storm-petrel ringed in 1981 was recovered, making it over 32 years old

The Mediterranean Storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis, Kanġu ta’ Filfla) is the smallest seabird breeding in the Mediterranean, not much bigger than a sparrow. With up to 8,000 breeding pairs, Filfla in the Maltese Archipelago is the largest colony of the species in the Mediterranean.

BirdLife Malta has been studying the population on Filfla since the late 60s, by ringing the birds with uniquely numbered rings. Recoveries of ringed birds have shown the movements between Filfla and a colony at Marettimo islet in Sicily. Moreover, a recent study during BirdLife Malta’s LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project and LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project using geolocator tags, revealed that a few birds from Filfla migrate to the Spanish coast and even into the Atlantic during winter.

The BirdLife Malta ring on the bird recovered in Greece. (Photo by Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece)
The Mediterranean Storm-petrel recovered in a Greek colony, first ringed on Filfla in 2008. (Photo by Hellenic Ornithological Society/BirdLife Greece)

However, ringers from the Hellenic Ornithological Society (BirdLife Greece) have now recovered a Storm-petrel first ringed in 2008 on Filfla by BirdLife Malta in a colony on one of the Greek Islands. Until now, there had been no evidence of movements of Storm-petrels between the Central and Eastern Mediterranean breeding colonies. This is a great discovery for the most enigmatic bird of the Aegean Sea since the connection between the Storm-petrel populations in the Aegean and in the Central Mediterranean Basin has become evident for the very first time!

The Storm-petrel recovered in Greece was over 11 years old, and while even this is impressive for such a small ocean wanderer, it is by far not the oldest. In fact, also a few days ago, BirdLife Malta ringers on a research visit on Filfla recaptured a bird first ringed on the same islet in 1991 making it over 29 years old! The bird was older than the ringer who handled it!

But even this is not a record. Back in 2013 a Storm-petrel ringed on Filfla in 1981 was recovered, making it over 32 years old. BirdLife Malta and its BirdLife partners like the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) will continue to strive for the conservation of seabirds in the Mediterranean to ensure that species like the Mediterranean Storm-petrel continue being able to live so long.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

A ringed Mediterranean Storm-petrel leaving its nest crevice on the islet of Filfla. (Photo by BirdLife Malta)