Canarian Government supports project to survey and protect endangered osprey population now down to just seven breeding pairs

Photo: Tenerife Cabildo. © Beneharo Rodríguez.

There have been various attempts in the past to protect ospreys in these islands, a species under considerable global pressure but here in the Canaries, where the bird is called a guincho, the population has suffered a particularly pronounced decline over recent years. Now, only seven pairs of guinchos still survive on cliffs in just three sites around the archipelago: in the uninhabited little island of Alegranza north of Lanzarote, in La Gomera, and in the Los Gigantes cliffs here in Tenerife, their last bastion in this island.

Ornithologists say that tourist leisure boats, the increased numbers of hikers on trails where they’re actually prohibited, as well as an extensive network of power lines and unchecked construction of wind farms have all contributed to their slow but gradual disappearance. Now, they are facing extinction and a group of birders has been officially authorized to carry out a project in the effort to save this endangered species that is so much a part of these islands’ biodiversity and natural heritage.

The project, co-financed by the Canarian Government, will be run by three ornithologists affiliated to the Canarian Ornithology and Natural History Group. Felipe Siverio, Beneharo Rodríguez (author of photo above) and Manuel Siverio have thus far carried out an updated census of the species, with marking and identification, a major conservation advance since without such surveys it’s impossible to establish the factors involved in their endangerment. Over the next three years their work will incorporate the ringing and equipping of both chicks and adults with remote monitoring devices to try to establish the guinchos’ reproductive and demographic parameters.

The idea is that by the end of the project we will all be far better informed about the areas where ospreys tend to feed, their movements and use of habitat, as well as more clearly able to understand further ecological aspects of the birds’ life and behaviour about which ornithologists are still very much in the dark. All this will naturally help to implement further conservation measures, identify potential threat factors, and guide the management of efforts to mitigate their environmental challenges.

Some parts of Spain, like Valencia, are actively and successfully trying to recuperate the population of these wonderful birds which have almost disappeared throughout the country. Now a concerted effort is being made here. It will be such a stupidly unnecessary loss for the natural world if it doesn’t succeed here, and there’s more information HERE about the project, the birds, and the risks they face … and how we can make some choices to help, like keeping away from their habitat, choosing any boat trips we go on according to how careful they are to keep away from the Los Gigantes cliffs, and those that minimise noise because that disturbs these birds, makes females abandon nests leaving the eggs to fry uncovered in the sun before the chicks can even hatch. Let’s at least be aware of our own footprint …

  

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