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Hard times for Greek island seagulls

- by Liz Waugh

Hard times for Greek island seagulls.

WIld seagulls are under threat as breeding numbers drop sharply throughout the Greek islands, warn Greek bird lovers. The latest 2010 census of seagull nests by the Greek Ornithological Society estimated 350-500 breeding pairs of Audouin's Gull compared to the 700-900 pairs found in 2009.

The wild sea bird, the Audouin's Gull, is a symbol of the Greek islands and a noted sighting for enthusiastic birdwatchers on Greek Island holidays.

To try and combat the decline the Greek Ornithological Society is launching a programme called LIFE, which aims to tackle the main threats to Audouin's Gull and rescue the most important of the gulls' breeding colonies.

Human activities across the Greek island such as farming, grazing, tourism, fishing and hunting are thought to be mainly responsible for the decline in breeding by Audouin's Gull.

The main threats to the seabird are the reduction of food sources through overfishing and marine pollution, and the rise in rats populations as the rodents will eat both eggs and chicks.
Rival populations of the Yellow-legged Gull has also had an impact after their population surged to approximately 200,000 breeding pairs.

The main difference between the two species of gull is the colour of the beak. which is red for the Audouin's Gull and yellow for the more common sea bird.

The LIFE project aims to create 17 areas with special protection on Greek islands such as Amorgos and Lemnos where nests of the Audouin's Gull occur in the greatest numbers.
The Greek Ornithological Society has earmarked clusters of Greek islands where rats cause the most damage and has launched programmes to eliminate the rodents.

Other schemes will try to control population of rival gull nesting sites and to tackle the problem of random trapping of seabirds in fishing gear.

GPS transmitters will help identify key areas where the birds find food and ringing chicks will provide information on movement and behaviour.