“What does this mean? I don’t speak portuguese”… you may say.

I get it no stress, so basically we are talking about “Cagarros ” or in English the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis). These migratory birds that breed and nest in Azores, with one of the biggest colonies located in São Miguel in the very Islet of Vila Franca do Campo are amazing.

They lay one egg only, the egg will then be one day a little chick that will in time turn into a magnificent juvenile. Guarded and feed by both parents. When hunting the parents are often associated with dolphins and tuna. At the age of 3 months these juveniles will leave the nest and find the sea for the very first time in order to travel across the Atlantic Ocean towards Uruguay, Brazil and South Africa.

 

Juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphin and Cory’s shearwater (Stenella frontalis)

This usually takes place during October and November, so every night there are young juveniles that leave the nest during the night in order to find the sea but they sadly get blinded by city and car lights. The result they get disoriented since they rely on the moon and the stars to find the ocean. When disoriented unfortunately are unable to fly again, adding to this stress the fact that on land these animals are quite clumsy.

So in Azores it is usual to find a cagarro when disoriented on the street but thanks to the campaign of SOS Cagarro ,that takes place every year since 1995 in the 9 islands between October 15 and November 15 at night founded by SPEA (Portuguese Society for Bird Studies). Efforts are increasing in order to avoid the cagarros population to get affected by human activities.A lot of people already know what to do in Azores.

But when visiting Azores we may not really know what to do if we find this beautiful marine bird on the street struggling. So here are a few tips that can help you to react the right way, without hurting yourself or the animal. Since they can bite with their beaks.

You will need: A box, towel

Step 1 ) Get a blanket, towel or hoodie or basically any fabric available to cover the cagarro’s head and gently wrap him in order for him the stay calm.

 

The young Cory’s shearwater about to be released on the beach (Calonectris borealis)

 

Step2) Place the cagarro in a box making sure he can breath and closing it.

step 3) Call SOS cagarro’s Hotline : 800 292 800 where they can let you know were to deliver the bird to right authorities.

We have at the Marina of Villa Franca a base were one can leave the bird to be collected afterwards.

If you wish to release the cagarro yourself, you need to wait until daylight in order for them not the get blinded again by lights. You also have to make sure the sea conditions are REALLY nice and flat so the bird does not get trapped by the waves. Trying to asses that the bird is not injured, this is a bit harder to observe so I don’t really recommend releasing the animals yourself it is better to wait for the right authorities to collect the birds.

If you find a cagarro you can always leave with us and we will never reject keeping them in order to call SPEA (The Portuguese society for the study of birds) and deliver the package.

 

Always pay attention when handling a cagarro: it might be stressed and scared, and try to bite you!

Sometimes it takes a couple of try to take off and fly away for a fledgling Cory’s shearwater. Give them some time and make sure they make it back to the Ocean.

 

So please next time you decide to go out to sea in Azores take a harder look at the birds that one can see.

And remember “Salva um cagarro y faz um amigo”.

Anaïs Builly

About Anaïs Builly

Anais Builly is Marine Biologist with a Master's degree in Bioproducts & Bioproduction of Marine Ecosystems as well as Master's degree in Biology, Ecology and Ecosystems. She studied in France and South Africa and is now working as a guide in Terra Azul. She feels very passionate about the conservation of marine mammals, and loves being out in the ocean everyday.

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