BirdLife Malta today announced news that the Malta-Gozo Channel has been confirmed as Malta’s first Marine Important Bird Area (IBA) in recognition of its international importance for two globally and one regionally threatened bird species, putting Malta on the world stage alongside such iconic biodiversity hotspots as the Galapagos and the Azores as a refuge for threatened wildlife.
Birds from Malta’s two main breeding populations of the ‘Red-Listed’ Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and the larger Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) at Rdum tal-Madonna, in Malta, and Ta’ Cenc, in Gozo, make use of the channel, congregating on the water in large numbers before returning to their nearby cliff-side nest sites to take their turn incubating their egg or feeding their young chick.
The channel, including the island of Comino, is also an important migration route for the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), acting as a bottleneck through which these ‘Near-threatened’ birds are funnelled on their passage through the Maltese Archipelago between their breeding grounds in Europe and their African wintering grounds.
Maltese birdwatchers and ornithologists have been recording observations of the breeding and migrating birds that use the channel for decades. Malta’s first EU LIFE project, the Yelkouan Shearwater Project (2006-2009), made the resources available to pursue the intensive studies required to collect the amount of rigorous scientific data needed for the true importance of the site to be assessed.