Sea birds of the Basque Country

Saiz Elizondo, Rafa

Itsas Enara Ornitologia Elkartearen lehendakaria

"Do we have seabirds in Euskal Herria?" Answering this question can be a big surprise to them.

Without a doubt, many people can be surprised at just reading the title. "Do we have seabirds in Euskal Herria?" Answering this question can be a big surprise to them. And yet it is true that: Each year we can see around 33 species, both from the coast and from the boat, of which 5 reproduce among us.

Among seabirds, some are more marine than others; for example, the gabayas, the martin and the thousands are totally pelagic outside the reproductive era, but the gulls live mostly on the coast. Food is also different: although some species feed on fish, others eat mostly plankton and others can eat almost anything. In this last group we can include most seagulls, seroros, timbres and gulls. Therefore, most of the species of these families have undergone spectacular expansion in recent years, as human civilization produces tons of food they need.

The little bird or bell is a bird that we can see anywhere during the winter and can eat everything. Also nesting in the Basque Country.

Among the ichthyophagos we can see different fishing techniques: some (gulls, for example), while they fly over the small fishes that circulate on the surface of the water; others (gabarrás and alca, for example) continue the fish until they catch them. Finally, we will mention the most spectacular technique, that of white tuna and manga: the chopped or the ditch. When the bird flies, seeing a submerged fish, it will be thrown from end to end and catch the fish.

Sanga, brojo, glop or copla. The most spectacular marine species. It is thrown from about 30 meters to fish on the water. In September it is very abundant and from any point of the coast we can see it with binoculars.

But, in most cases, the human being becomes an enemy of these planes, even if it is sometimes involuntary. Hunting, pollution, oil spills are factors that can lead to the decline of populations. The latter, above all, has led to serious situations as a result of serious accidents in Galicia and Britain. The names of "Torrey Canyon", "Amoco Cádiz", "Urkiola"... and other boats appeared in newspapers around the world, accompanied by photographs of pottorros and other dead birds. Although they have not been successful, in Euskal Herria also hundreds of seabirds die every year on the beaches, some totally petroleum. In addition, fishermen also capture thousands of specimens, although most species are protected.

All the species of the Basque Country have not been included in the accompanying photographic collection. The truth is that most have been left out, but it is a fairly representative bouquet, although there are no birds tuna or barges.

Ugarrón, bolboriña or alca. It reproduces in Bizkaia, already destroyed in Gipuzkoa. Another species comes to us in winter.
The real "kala-txoria" is the gull, the chirleta, the marlaxa or the ñoño. This species is very abundant on the high seas, but hardly known on the coast. Thousands of specimens die a year for gastronomic reasons.
The young seagull is brown and its feather whitens as it gets older, starting from the back.
Espadaña de alca o orujo "female". Like all other species in the family, it is very sensitive to oil.
Frailecillo, carculo o papalayo. It is a very peculiar and comic bird that people know through informative books.
Gull, marloin or "itxetxorija", the most abundant marine bird in the Basque Country, at least as a nesting agent. It has many breeding colonies throughout our geography.
Millabarrika or baracaldo. In Euskal Herria it has a reproductive colony, but it is not very abundant.
Marico. A bird well known to fishermen, which steals food from other seabirds.
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