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SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > Participate > Campaigns > Bird of the Year 2011

Bird of the Year 2011
Cory's Shearwater, the Barometer of our sea

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea (Cagarro or Pardela-de-bico-amarelo in Portuguese) is a marine bird primarily identified by its unusual, strident call, which can only be heard on the Archipelagos of the Azores. It is, however, also possible to see this bird migrating along the mainland coast.

Thanks to its wide variety of islands, Portugal shelters the majority of populations of this species. It is for this reason in particular that we must try to prevent the number of Cory's Shearwater from continuing to fall. Its status is worsening, suggesting it may reach threatened status in the medium term if the population continues on its current trend.

The decline in number of Cory’s Shearwater and other marine birds clearly indicates the grave situation of our Oceans. To date, SPEA has identified the Important Bird Areas of our coast and some of these should gain legal protection over the next months. This protection was only achieved through the collection of data over recent years about the areas where marine birds feed and breed. Cory's Shearwater was the bird most helped by the collection of this data.

How do I identify a Cory's Shearwater?

This bird is distinguished by its yellow bill, brownish upper parts and white lower parts. Its call is highly characteristic and is the origin of its name in Portuguese. It can be heard at night when the birds return to their nests, for example on the Berlenga Island.

Cory's Shearwaters can live for around 50 years. From around 5 to 8 years old they begin to return to the same place they were born to breed, but spend most of their life at sea.

This species feeds primarily on fish, cephalopods and crustaceans.

Where is it found?

Cory's Shearwater is one of the most common shearwaters on our coast, seen during the months of migration (February and March or October and November) or during the breeding season, from April to October.

The best places to see this species are the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira and Berlenga where it breeds. It is also easy to see from the capes and promontories along the coast of mainland Portugal, such as Cabo Raso, Carvoeiro, Cabo Espichel, or Cabo São Vicente.

Is Cory's Shearwater in danger?
The species is considered to be ‘Vulnerable’ in Portugal and of ‘Least Concern’ in the islands, with various factors threatening its survival.

Hydrocarbon marine pollution  (e.g. fossil fuels), associated with the time the Cory's Shearwater spends at sea; mortality associated with some forms of fishing; and the introduction of predators on its breeding grounds are the most serious threats which may come to compromise the future of the species.

On the islands of the Azores and Madeira, the lights of urban areas often cause juveniles to become disorientated on their first flights, and are commonly observed grounded in the towns, gardens or streets. These birds often die if not rescued, run over or taken by predators. This phenomenon occurs because the shearwaters confuse the lights with stars and become disorientated.

What is SPEA doing to protect this species?
  • The ‘Sanctuary Islands for Marine Birds’ LIFE project is currently running on the island of Corvo and the islet of Vila Franca off S. Miguel. Find out more;
  • The project FAME “The Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment” started in 2010;
  • The people of the island of Madeira understand the problems that excess light cause to Cory’s Shearwaters;
  • The project ‘Diagnosis and Minimisation of the Impact of Public Lighting on Marine Birds’ is being developed, with the objective of minimising the impact of public lighting in coastal areas of the island of Madeira;
  • The LIFE project ‘Islets of Porto Santo’ started last year, developed by the Natural Park Service of Madeira in partnership with SPEA;
  • 2011 will also be the first year of the LIFE project ‘MarPro’ conservation of protected marine species in Mainland Portugal.

What can I do to protect this species?
  • If you find a lost shearwater on one of the islands of the Azores, place it in a box and release it the following morning on the closest beach, or call S.O.S Cagarro for them to come and help. Website SOS Cagarro
  • If you live on Madeira or Porto Santo call SPEA, mobile number 967232195;
  • If you live on an island, turn off exterior lights, both at home (e.g. garden lighting) and at work (gardens, atriums, churches, parks). In particular, strong lights which point to the sky for the months October/November, so that juveniles leaving the nest are not confused;
  • Don’t walk in areas where there are nests of shearwaters to avoid damaging them;
  • Spread the word of the importance of this species, which symbolises the quality of our sea.

See the website of SIARAM to download the call of Cory’s Shearwater, upload photos, or see videos of Cory’s Shearwater. Find out more

If you have any queries, please contact us

Photo: Cory’s Shearwater © Pedro Geraldes

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