Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

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Migration flyway of the Mediterranean breeding Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis emigratus

Abdulmaula Hamza, Nicola Baccetti, Joe Sultana, Jaber Yahia, Marco Zantello, Adriano de Faveri, Nick Cutts, John Borg, Hichem Azafzaf, Pierre Defos du Rau, Esam Bourass, Khaled Etayeb, Michael Elliott


The Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis emigratus breeding population in the Mediterranean is found exclusively in Libya, on the two coastal islands of Gara and Elba and one wetland on the mainland coast at Benghazi. In order to improve knowledge of the species migration to wintering quarters in West Africa, a ringing programme was conducted from 2006–2008 and 2009–2012. From a total of 1 354 nestlings ringed using metal and/or colour rings, 64 were recovered along their flyway and in their wintering range, representing 6.9% of birds ringed with both colour and metal rings. This provided the opportunity to collect information on post-natal movements (staging and wintering ranges), breeding philopatry and recruitment, in addition to a preliminary estimate of their migration journey duration. This paper indicates sighting and recovery distributions in space and time,  highlighting the important areas for the species during its journey between breeding and wintering sites. The findings indicate that several areas where ringed terns stop-over during pre- and post-breeding migration journeys are not protected, causing an additional threat to their survival, as some wintering areas are also not protected. Conservation of this highly localised and threatened population needs not only to address protection at breeding sites but also at migratory stop-overs and wintering strongholds.


Keywords: breeding, Lesser Crested Tern, Libya, migration, ringing, West Africa

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