The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project employs a variety of standardised research protocols and latest tracking technology to gain a comprehensive picture of key areas of importance to the study species. Seabird colonies are monitored using the mark-recapture method, and samples are collected of regurgitates for dietary analyses.
Transect counts carried out from a boat, up to the 25 nautical mile limit of Maltese waters, focus on recording the distribution and behaviour of the study species at sea. These data are collected following the European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) methodology, and will contribute to global knowledge about seabirds at sea. Observers will also collect information on the habitat use of other species of birds, as well as cetaceans and turtles.
Striped Dolphin, Cory's Shearwaters and a Loggerhead Turtle. Photographs by Benjamin Metzger.
The Project uses different tracking devices to gain information about the birds’ distribution out at sea. GPS loggers are attached to the back of Yelkouan and Cory’s shearwaters, for a few days at a time, to record where the birds have been on their foraging trips out at sea. Small geolocators that stay with the birds for an entire year are used to find out where the birds go during their breeding season, but also during the winter and migration periods. The Project will also attempt, for the first time in Malta, a radio-tracking study on the European Storm Petrels. Small radio-transmitters are attached to these small seabirds, and observers equipped with antennae and receiver units will search for them from onboard boats and small aircraft.
Research boat. Photograph by Benjamin Metzger.
We will also be carrying out a publicity campaign to bring seabirds closer to the public, and to increase awareness about the threats seabirds face and solutions to protect them.
We will also be collaborating closely with researchers and seabird experts around the Mediterranean and the world, attending workshops and conferences and creating links to other similar projects, while sharing experience and know-how. At the end of the Project, a workshop will be held in Malta on the creation of Marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs), bringing together people working on seabirds around the Mediterranean.