Wedge-tailed shearwaters are medium-sized long-winged seabirds, mostly known for their impressive capacity to fly hundreds of kilometres out to sea. However, on D’Arros Island and the St Joseph Atoll in Seychelles, they are Ghost Birds, named after their distinctive ghost-like calls which emanate at night from the islands’ darkness.
On D’Arros Island, a project is underway to find out a bit more about these nighttime ghouls. Led by Danielle Van Den Heever with support from the Save Our Seas Foundation, the project aims to discover more about the birds as they breed, particularly their diet and diving behaviour, as well as work out their distribution in the western Indian Ocean.
Seychelles is a biodiversity hot-spot for breeding seabirds, who rear their young on the archipelago. However, with growing threats to the region’s environment, particularly from industrial tuna fisheries and a dense flow of maritime traffic, identifying areas of ecological importance is essential to inform ocean protection programmes.
This is where the Ghost Birds play a part. The occurrence of seabirds is a key indicator of the health of the marine environment, and by monitoring their distribution and their diet, areas of ecological importance can be identified. These assessments are particularly relevant for species such as wedge-tailed shearwaters that are known to be vulnerable to pollutants and other man-made pressures in the Indian Ocean. By finding such ecological areas, an informed assessment can be made over whether these place becomes marine protection areas (MPAs) – an essential process for protecting our oceans and their wildlife.