Yelkouan Shearwater ©Aron Tanti, BirdLife Malta
Yelkouan Shearwater ©Aris Christidis, HOS BirdLife Greece

The Yelkouan Shearwater

The Yelkouan Shearwater (Maltese name: Garnija, Scientific name: Puffinus yelkouan) is a medium-sized seabird seen flying low over the water with rapid wingbeats.

During its breeding season, from February to July, individuals may be observed resting at sea alone or in small rafts. Malta’s population is estimated to be around 1,600 – 1,800 pairs, constituting approximately 10% of the global population.

The Maltese population has declined in recent years, mainly due to predation by rats, loss of breeding habitat, illegal hunting, disturbance and light and sound pollution. The IUCN classes the Yelkouan Shearwater as vulnerable.

Balearic Shearwater ©Pep Arcos, SEO BirdLife
Balearic Shearwater ©Pep Arcos, SEO BirdLife

The Balearic Shearwater

The Balearic Shearwater (Maltese name: Garnija Balearika, Scientific name: Puffinus mauretanicus) is slightly larger than Yelkouan Shearwater and with greyish-brown colour on its back and upper half.

This species nests only in the Balearic Islands in Spain. The most recent estimates of the Balearic shearwater population are at 19000 individuals. The first birds arrive at breeding colonies in September, laying between February and March, and juveniles leave their nests in June.

This species is the most endangered seabird in Europe, classified by IUCN as critically endangered. It is mainly threatened by predation of adults by introduced mammals (cats and rodents) and accidental capture in fishing gear such as long-lines and seine fishing methods.