The Mediterranean bird is the smallest bird in the Mediterranean but makes the longest trips to get food during the incubation period.

An image of the Mediterranean cloth.

The Mediterranean bird, the smallest bird in the Mediterranean, is capable of traveling more than 1,500 kilometers in three or four days to feed during the incubation period, according to a study published in the journal Ardeola, from SEO / Birdlife.

The researchers tagged 42 specimens with GPS weighing less than one gram in the Benidorm island (Alicante) which is home to one of the most important colonies in the Mediterranean, with about 600 specimens. The researchers followed and learned about the movements and feeding areas.

The Mediterranean clothHydrobates pelagicus melitensis) has a size of between 14 and 18 centimeters (like a sparrow) and just 28 grams in weight. Is he smallest bird in the Mediterranean but it makes the longest trips of all the seabirds in its environment to provide itself with food during its incubation period.The team of Spanish and Italian researchers, led by Andreu Rotger, from the Museo delle Scienze (MUSE) in Trento (Italy) used miniature GPS devices to follow and learn about the movements and feeding areas of the Mediterranean paíño.

Research has described for the first time the characteristics of feeding trips and the exact location of this small jet bird in its search for food has been known. during the incubation period.

Rotger explained that not all individuals traveled the same kilometers in the epic task of searching for food in deep water, but rather showed high variability in the duration of feeding trips (between 1 and 4.5 days) and in distance. traveled, which ranged between 303 and 1,726 kilometers and it covered almost the entire southwestern Mediterranean, with a distribution area that encompassed about 135,000 square kilometers.

Thus, they have concluded that the main feeding area, which is restricted to the deep waters of the alboran sea and the Cañones de Cartagena, has Alboran as its main area with about 8,000 square kilometers, where 20% of the foraging locations are concentrated.“These results suggest that the Mediterranean petrel could be feeding covering greater distances than their Atlantic relatives, and even, in general, longer distances than other Mediterranean seabirds such as the ashen and Balearic shearwaters ”, the researcher emphasizes. Other interesting data that have been obtained has been the average reproductive success in the colony, which was 61%, while the average reproductive success among the tagged specimens was higher, 71%.

The role of the Alboran Sea

With the results, the researchers insist on the importance of the Alboran Sea (between the Andalusian and African coasts) as a key place for conservation of the Mediterranean paíño, particularly because of the role they play as a feeding place.

It is a highly productive area due to the proximity and cold water inlet from the Atlantic, appreciated by the locals despite the energy cost involved in making these long trips from their neighborhood. The authors suggest that more studies are needed to evaluate whether the detected foraging areas are temporally stable, or also whether they are relevant for paino specimens that breed in other Mediterranean colonies.The European bird, declared Bird of the Year in 2007 by SEO / BirdLife, uses the most of his life in the water, visiting only their colonies during the breeding season.

Despite its small size, this bird can live more than 30 years, sustains a mate for life and shows high fidelity to the nest. They only lay one egg, which is incubated for 40 days by both parents, who also share care and parental responsibilities, and reproduce in colonies, located on small islands free from predatory mammals.The species is listed globally as ‘Least concern’ globally, while in Spain it is considered ‘vulnerable’ in the Red Book of Birds of Spain, where it is estimated that there are some 5,000 breeding pairs spread over the Cantabrian Sea, Galicia, the Mediterranean coast, the Balearic Islands and the Canary archipelago.However, the Mediterranean subspecies (H. p. melitensis) has far fewer breeding specimens and a more restricted distribution than its relative, the Atlantic bird (H. p. pelagicus), which is also in a better state of conservation.As the NGO SEO / BirdLife insists, knowing the feeding areas for seabirds and the tours they take is crucial to be able to establish conservation measures and determine protected areas, such as in the Alboran Sea.