17/11/2008
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Seawatch SW: Falcons attacking shearwaters: a request for information

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The Seawatch SW project involves land-based monitoring of a range of migratory species, with a particular focus on seabirds. During 2008, SeaWatch SW observers witnessed three separate incidents of falcons attacking shearwaters. These included an escaped Lanner/Saker-type falcon attacking two Balearic Shearwaters over the sea off Gwennap Head (Cornwall), a Peregrine Falcon attacking a Sooty Shearwater off Trevose Head (Cornwall), and a Peregrine Falcon harrying a group of three Balearic Shearwaters off Hengistbury Head (Dorset). In all cases the attacks were unsuccessful and the shearwaters continued unharmed. However, on the breeding grounds, we have recently received photos showing Peregrine Falcons successfully taking Balearic Shearwaters at the entrance to nesting caves.


Peregrine Falcon (Photo: Russell Wynn)

Previous studies have shown that Peregrine Falcons in particular have a track record of attacking migratory seabirds, especially Manx Shearwaters, European and Leach's Storm-petrels, and various wildfowl and waders. However, there appear to be no published data describing attacks on Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters. We therefore plan to produce a short article about this behaviour. To assist this process, we would be grateful for any examples of falcons attacking Balearic, Sooty, Cory's or Great Shearwaters (or any other unusually 'large' migratory seabirds). All contributions will be acknowledged in the published article. Please send any correspondence to the SeaWatch SW co-ordinator via the 'Contact Us' page on the project website: seawatch-sw.org.

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Note that the next SeaWatch SW update will be uploaded within the next week or so, including the UK/Irish Balearic Shearwater monthly reports for September and October, and an overview of final two weeks of effort-based surveys in southwest UK.

Further details can be found on the SeaWatch SW website: www.seawatch.org.

Written by: Dr Russell B Wynn, SeaWatch SW co-ordinator