Lanzarote birding tours are a unique experience for any bird watching enthusiast. On October 20th we take our last journey to see the Shearwater fledglings before they, and the Eleonora Falcon begin their long journey across the Atlantic. The Cory’s Shearwater is a fascinating species of bird, with an equally unique story.
There are a few facts about the Cory´s Shearwater which make them stand out for good reason. The largest colony in the world is located on small uninhabited islands llhas Salvagems between Lanzarote and Madeira. Alegranza, Montaña Clara and Roque del Este have the 2nd largest breeding colony of Shearwaters in the world. According to WWF there are 11,000 pairs off the coast of Lanzarote, within the Archipelago Chinijo. Furthermore this UNESCO protected area is the largest marine reserve of Spain. Consider the fact that the largest world colonies are located on uninhabited islands. This makes us think about how much our presence (or in this case absence!) affects the number of the wildlife.
The Shearwater colonies arrive to the Canary Islands in March, migrating from the coast of Brazil to breed on the cliffs. Being a pelagic bird, they have a gland in their beak which naturally allows them to desalinate the ocean water. As a result, they don´t need to drink fresh water, therefore they can live completely in the sea. In fact they spend the first 7-9 years of their lives before they reach maturity, living on the ocean! They remain non reliant on land, only really visiting in order to breed. But on the other hand, they are masters on the sea: they can dive up to 70 metres deep. They use the wind currents above the ocean surface for an effortless, so called dynamic flight.
Shearwaters lay only one egg and they feed their chick mainly with fish fat until it becomes large enough and starts to grow feathers. Before fledging, the parents stop feeding the chick. This little one has around 2 weeks to digest the baby fat and make the jump from the cliff to the ocean, where it will remain.
The Cory´s Shearwater fledglings stay together in large numbers, learning how to fish and how to fly. By November they are ready to become fully reliant on the ocean. Most birds do not have a sense of smell, but the Cory´s Shearwater does. To observe them flying gracefully above the waves, touching the water with a tip of the wing is a pleasure for any bird enthusiast.
The Cory´s Shearwater chicks used to be “harvested” in the Canaries for their fat. They were an important source of protein in times when people had nothing to eat. The port and only village in the island La Graciosa is called ‘Caleta El Sebo’ (The bay of fat) in reference to the fat extracted from the shearwaters. As many as 6-7.000 birds could be exterminated per year in the past. Thankfully the Cory´s Shearwater is now a protected bird species. As a result, their colonies are now building in numbers once again despite reports of some illegal poaching still taking place.
The distinctive call behind the often used “wacka wacka” or “weÑa weÑa” nickname, is wonderful to hear. We’re proud to witness (responsibly), this unique species of bird on our Remote Islands Tour between March and the end of October each year.
See you soon!