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Friday Creature Feature: Yelkouan Shearwater
On Sunday I mentioned the “clumsy” Yelkouan Shearwater: a seabird and one of our winged friends whose population is at risk because of the predatory nature of cats-who unlike the untold number of fat robins, bright cardinals, and plucky blue jays I see in our yard who look like they have never been threatened by a cat in their lives.
Not to mention the Canada geese who like the Yelkouan Shearwater, make their nests on the ground. Canada geese seem to prefer the sides of busy roads and highways and the Yelkouan Shearwater prefers caves or islets.
Despite sharing nesting preferences, Canada geese are thriving (to the point of annoyance) and the Yelkouan Shearwater was recently uplisted on the IUCN Red List from “near threatened” to “vulnerable.”
"These seabirds only live on islands, which in the past were free from predators. As a result, they are agile at sea as they only eat fish and squad yet are feeble on the land," said Elsa Bonnaud, the lead researcher of the seabird study that was published in Ibis: International Journal of Avian Science. I think Bonnaud might meant to say “squid” is a part of the bird’s diet but if you can find a marine creature called a “squad” I’ll happily cover it next week.
The Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), a relative of the Manx Shearwater, has two main predators: rats, who like to eat the single egg the birds lay, and then cats. Now if the cats would switch to solely eating rats some of the bird population might be saved.
On the French island called Le Levant in the Mediterranean Sea feral cats are the biggest predator. According to researchers cats see the birds as a “main course" and are causing somewhere between 800 and 3,200 deaths a year. The birds can also be found throughout the islands dotting Mediterranean and in France and Italy.
The body of the bird is 30 to 38 centimeters in length or slightly over a foot long at their longest. The bird is mostly brown in color but has a paler whitish underside. Their wingspan is between 76 to 89 centimeters or almost three feet.
The “shearwater” part of their name has to do with the way they fly: the birds maintain stiff wings during flight, beating them only a few times. They dip from side to side and when they get close to the surface of the water their wingtips almost touch the water.
Yelkouan is the Turkish word for “chasing the wind."
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.