Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 411–422 | Cite as

Migration strategies of the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan

  • André F. RaineEmail author
  • John J. Borg
  • Helen Raine
  • Richard A. Phillips
Original Article


Although the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, with many populations in serious decline, there is little detailed information on the location of its key foraging areas during the non-breeding season. To address this knowledge gap, adult Yelkouan Shearwaters at a breeding colony in Malta were fitted with geolocators in 2 consecutive years. Of the 13 birds tracked (two of which were tracked in both years), the majority (n = 10; 76.9 %) migrated in June–July to spend most of the non-breeding period in the Black Sea (n = 5), Aegean Sea (n = 2), Black and Aegean seas (n = 2), or Black and Adriatic seas (n = 1). The final three birds remained within the central Mediterranean area and did not move beyond 500 km of the breeding colony. There was considerable variation among individuals in terms of timing of the outward and return migrations, duration and location of periods of residency in different areas, and migration routes. However, migration patterns (including routes and areas visited) were very consistent in the two individuals tracked in consecutive years. All birds returned in November or December to waters closer to the breeding colony, concentrating between the North African coast and the southern Adriatic. This study has identified key areas during the non-breeding season for Yelkouan Shearwaters from Malta which are also likely to be important for other populations. Given the continuing decline of this species throughout its range, this information represents an essential step for improving international conservation efforts. At-sea threats in the wintering regions include by-catch in long-line and trawl fisheries, impacts of over-fishing, illegal hunting (particularly in Maltese waters), ingestion of plastics, pollution, and the potential impact of off-shore wind farms. These threats need to be addressed urgently in the areas identified by this study to prevent further declines.


Seabirds Telemetry Conservation Migration Malta Yelkouan Shearwater 


Zugstrategien des Mittelmeersturmtauchers ( Puffinus yelkouan )

Obwohl der Mittelmeersturmtaucher Puffinus yelkouan als „nahezu gefährdet“eingestuft wird und einige Populationen bereits stark zurückgehen, gibt es kaum detaillierte Informationen über die Hauptnahrungsgebiete außerhalb der Brutzeit. Um diese Wissenslücke zu schließen, wurden adulte Mittelmeersturmtaucher aus einer Brutkolonie in Malta zwei Jahre lang mit Geolokatoren ausgestattet. Von den 13 verfolgten Vögeln (zwei davon wurden während beider Jahre verfolgt) wanderte die Mehrheit (n = 10; 76.9 %) im Juni und Juli ab. Sie hielten sich außerhalb der Brutperiode im Schwarzen Meer (n = 5), im Ägäischen Meer (n = 2), im Schwarzen und Ägäischen Meer (n = 2) oder im Schwarzen und Adriatischen Meer (n = 1) auf. Die übrigen drei Vögel bleiben im zentralen Mittelmeerraum und entfernten sich nicht weiter als 500 km von der Brutkolonie. Es gab eine beträchtliche Variabilität zwischen den Individuen in Bezug auf zeitlichen Ablauf des Zuges, Dauer und Aufenthalt in den verschiedenen Gebieten sowie der Zugrouten. Dennoch stimmten die Zugmuster (inklusive der Routen und besuchter Gebiete) der beiden über zwei Jahre verfolgten Vögel überein. Alle Vögel kamen im November und Dezember wieder näher an die Brutkolonie heran mit Schwerpunkt in N-Afrika und in der südlichen Adria. Diese Studie identifizierte die Hauptnahrungsgebiete außerhalb der Brutzeit von Mittelmeersturmtauchern von Malta, doch dürften diese auch für andere Populationen wichtig sein. Angesichts des stetigen Rückgangs dieser Art in ihrem gesamten Verbreitungsgebiet ist dies ein wichtiger Schritt, internationale Artenschutzbemühungen zu verbessern. Die Bedrohungen auf See in den Überwinterungsgebieten beinhalten Beifang bei Langleinen- und Schleppnetzfischerei, Auswirkung der Überfischung, illegale Jagd (besonders in Maltesischen Gewässern), Aufnahme von Plastik, Verschmutzung und die potentiellen Auswirkung von Offshore Windkraftanlagen. Diese Bedrohungen müssen in den durch diese Studie identifizierten Gebieten dringend angegangen werden, um einen weiteren Rückgang zu verhindern.



This study was made possible through the EU LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project ( The authors would also like to thank Nicholas Barbara, Geoffrey Saliba, and Tolga Temuge from BirdLife Malta, all of the field workers who took part in this project—in particular Nadja Tschovikov and Matthew Borg Cardona—as well as colleagues from SPEA (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves), particularly Ivan Ramirez, and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) who provided advice and assistance throughout the project’s duration. Andrew Fleming is thanked for access to and provision of the remote-sensed oceanographic data. The authors would also like to thank all of the project partners and funding agencies, as well as the two anonymous reviewers who provided comments on the first submission of this paper. We also thank Julia Diegmann for providing the German translation for the abstract of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • André F. Raine
    • 1
    Email author
  • John J. Borg
    • 2
  • Helen Raine
    • 3
  • Richard A. Phillips
    • 4
  1. 1.Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery ProjectHanapepe, Kaua’iUSA
  2. 2.National Museum of Natural HistoryMdinaMalta
  3. 3.BirdLife MaltaTa’XbiexMalta
  4. 4.British Antarctic Survey,Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

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