Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Manx Shearwater Birds on Copeland Island

We had to wait until it was very dark, about 10.30pm. before going out and we were well wrapped up with warm clothes on to look for Manx Shearwater birds.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) is a medium-sized Shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. The scientific name of this species records a name shift: Manx Shearwaters were called Manks Puffins in the 17th century. Puffin is an Anglo-Norman word (Middle English pophyn) for the cured carcasses of nestling Shearwaters. The Atlantic Puffin acquired the name much later, possibly because of its similar nesting habits.


This bird is 30–38 cm long, with a 76–89 cm wingspan. It has the typically "shearing" flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wing beats, the wingtips almost touching the water. This bird looks like a flying cross, with its wing held at right angles to the body, and it changes from black to white as the black upper parts and white undersides are alternately exposed as it travels low over the sea.



The prefix Manx, meaning from the Isle of Man, originated owing to the once large colony of Manx Shearwaters found on the Calf of Man (a small island just south of the Isle of Man). The species became extinct as a breeding bird there owing to the accidental introduction of rats from a shipwreck in the late 18th century; however a recent control program has resulted in Manx Shearwaters returning to breed in small numbers.



Manx Shearwaters are long-lived birds. A Manx Shearwater breeding on Copeland Island, Northern Ireland, was as of 2003/2004 the oldest known living wild bird in the world: ringed as an adult (at least 5 years old) in July 1953, it was retrapped in July 2003, at least 55 years old.


 Manx Shearwaters migrate over 10,000 km to South America in winter, using waters off southern Brazil and Argentina, so the 55-year-old bird mentioned above probably covered over 1,000,000 km on migration alone (not counting day-to-day fishing trips). 

Their migration also appears to be quite complex, containing many stopovers and foraging zones throughout the Atlantic Ocean.  Ornithologist Chris Mead estimated that a bird ringed in 1957 (aged about 5 years) and still breeding on Bardsey Island off Wales in April 2002 had flown over 8 million km (5 million miles) during its 50-year life.



Eve found the oldest bird that weekend.  It was at least 30 years old.  Most birds usually return to the same sub colony, are faithful to their area, nest site and partner.




They nest in burrows, laying one white egg which they visit only at night to avoid predation by large gulls. The islands are usually free of mammalian predators (but on the island of Rùm, about 4 percent of the chicks are preyed on by Red Deer that need extra calcium.) They form lifelong monogamous pair-bonds.


The Manx Shearwater feeds on small fish (particularly herring, sprat and sardines), crustaceans, cephalopods and surface offal. The bird forages individually or in small flocks, and it makes use of feeding marine mammals and schools of predatory fish, which push prey species up to the surface. It does not follow boats.




 This species breeds in the North Atlantic, with major colonies on islands and coastal cliffs around Great Britain and Ireland. Manx Shearwaters have nested along the Atlantic coast of north eastern North America since the 1970s and have expanded their breeding range southward into the Gulf of Maine, with a pair confirmed as nesting at Matinicus Rock. 



This is a gregarious species, which can be seen in large numbers from boats or headlands, especially on passage in autumn. It is silent at sea, but at night the breeding colonies are alive with raucous cackling calls.





This Sheatwater has been ringed and moving very awkwardly on land to find its burrow again.  They  didn't seem worried about being handled.




Folklore
In the nineteenth century Manx novel 'The Manxman' by Sir Hall Caine, a reference is made to the satanic folklore surrounding the Manx shearwater, apparently due to its unusual call and dark appearance.






 Although it was pitch black I thought I would try and take a shot at the Narcissi and I think now they remind me of stars.


I hope you enjoyed seeing the Manx Shearwaters being caught and ringed.

Iam linking this post with WILD BIRD WEDNESDAY

Thank you for visiting and tomorrow I will show you what I photographed on Copeland Island while I was there on Saturday.



Many thanks for commenting on any of my post.  I appreciate every single one.

33 comments:

  1. Oh wow, I have never seen a Shearwater never mind a MANX Shearwater! I have been to (on) Isle of Man and Calf of Man and know a little about the birds there. I am interested to know where Copeland Island is, Margeret? Where do you live and bird? Is it near Isle of Man or are these birds migratory? I love your visits to and comments on my humble posts about birds. Thanks. Greetings. Jo

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    1. HI Jo If you look at my profile in the right hand column, you will find out a bit more about me and that I live in Northern Ireland. I am glad you found this post interesting. I hope you looked at yesterday's post as you would see more shots of the Copeland Island and over the next 3 days, I am posting more from that beautiful special island. Many thanks for your comment.

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  2. A very interesting post and a great series of photos of the Shearwaters. The white narcissi do look like starts among that greenery. PS that blue nail polish really shows up well in the night lights!

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  3. FASCINATING - and how lovely to hear that a breeding colony is returning. That is the sort of news I love, and so rarely hear. Thank you.

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  4. A very interesting post, Margaret. Very long lived birds.

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  5. A beautiful bird and great shots, they look very placid.

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  6. very interesting post Margaret; it's quite amazing how accommodating they were with being handled too

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  7. Great news about the breeding colony. They are beautiful birds, great post.

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  8. I've never seen one, and I never will. Your photos are excellent piece of work.

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  9. A very informative post Margaret with some great photos. It must have been a wonderful experience :)

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  10. Enjoyed reading your post. I never knew any bird could live that long. I'm sure this was an experience you will never forget.

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  11. Lots of great pictures and commentary Margaret. It brought back lots of lovely memories for me from Manxieing on Bardsey Island a number of times. Thanks.

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  12. Sweet little shearwaters. luckily they taste fishy so not many people eat them any more. A Victorian nesting site I know has built up a large population of crows that prey on then and their eggs. Hoe odd, we protect them from people and the avian predators take over.
    In answer to your question,: Margaret, I did mention it in the heading but here is the Latin name as well: Acanthiza chrysorrhoa.

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  13. what a beautiful bird... how exciting you were a part of this experience... hope all is well. have a great day~

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  14. such cute birds! love their little webbed feet. 30 years - that's something!

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  15. That's an extremely cool bird. Looks like a fun night out. I didn't know all that info about the bird so thanks for sharing. It's on my list of birds to find:)

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  16. Interesting bird! Sounds like they have survived against all sorts of challenges.

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  17. I'm interested if you manage to recapture some of the birds you ring?

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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    1. Yes we recapture birds quite often Mersad.

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    2. Hi Mersad As You can see from Ian (Duty Officer above) we do recapture birds quite often and indeed on Monday I will be showing an entry of one of these birds in the record book that has been recaptured numerous times over the years so hope you will look in on Monday's post.

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    3. That will be interesting to see. Looking forward to the post on Monday.

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  18. I saw a few of them in Morocco when I was on a birding trip. But from you images tehy seem so small. Much smaller then i remember. Great set of shots.

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  19. I can't believe how long they can live - incredible! Lovely birds; thanks for another great post Margaret.

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  20. How interesting --to get to experience that... They certainly do live a long time..Glad they didn't seem 'spooked' by the handling and banding. Thanks for taking us with you on this night adventure.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  21. Hi Margaret :-)

    What a truly fascinating post with beautiful pictures of a really lovely bird. I had no idea they could live to their 50s- amazing! Thank you for posting all this information x

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  22. Such a privilege to actually see these birds Margaret.

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  23. Fascinating read about these birds. They sort of reminded me of Penguins. You got a lot of great shots of them and I enjoyed your post very much.

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  24. I never would have known what this bird is. And he does not appear to even struggle.

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  25. Very interesting. Thanks for the information. I found it all fascinating. A very cool bird. Imagine a bird living so long. MB

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  26. Marvelous! I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this darling little bird. What an opportunity Margaret, and your photos are brilliant. Thank you very, very much, another great post.

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  27. Really enjoyed your post and being introduced to this wonderful bird!! Awesome shots. One of these days I want to participate in a banding (or ringing as you call them) program. Thanks so much for sharing this experience.

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  28. Thank you for a very informative post. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful.

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  29. Another good read. Like Phil, I too have ringed "quite a few" on Bardsey. Had one land on a conservatory roof 80 miles from the nearest salt water once. Released safely next morning; it flew off after a good wash and brush up!

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