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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
'Oldest' sea bird alive and well
Manx shearwater
Manxie has been flying around the UK for more than half a century
A Manx shearwater which is believed to be the oldest wild bird in the UK has been found safe and well again off north Wales.

Manxie, who is at least 51, has been coming back to Bardsey Island off the Gwynedd coast every year for half a century.

Ornithologists have also discovered a veteran Razorbill which has broken a previous record for long-life.

This bird is at least 42 years old.

Both birds can be identified because years ago they were caught and ringed - given a unique number.

"Bardsey is a nature reserve and it has no predators and there are no rats," said Peter Howlett, of the Bird Observatories Council.

We still don't really know how old these sea birds can live to
Peter Howlett

"There is nothing to stop the Manx Shearwater getting into its burrows and getting its eggs.

"Scientifically these finds are not earth-shattering but they do push back our knowledge.

"We still don't really know how old these sea birds can live to," he said.

Mr Howlett added: "Sixty or 70 years of age (for the bird) might be reasonable, it would be really one to get to.

"We get a lot of Manx in their mid 20s, fewer in the 30s, then it does tail off quite quickly."

"With birds, as soon as something fails in them and they can't fly or feed they will die," he said.

Steve Stansfield, the warden on Bardsey, caught Manxie and the Razorbill, 14 years senior than the previous oldest one, this summer.

Before this year's Razorbill was found, ornithologists thought the oldest one was 28 years old and living on Skokholm Island, off Pembrokeshire.

Ring records

Mr Howlett said it is important to keep catching the birds to make sure the rings on their legs are intact.

"There are 14,000 pairs of Manx shearwaters nesting on Bardsey," he said.

"Ringers will be going to Copeland (off northern Ireland) soon to try to catch shearwaters, they may catch one which have lived longer."

Manxie was first caught in 1957 when it was already thought to be five or six.

After its last sighting in 2003, it is estimated the bird will have flown a round-trip of some 18,000 kilometres to the south Atlantic where it spends the winter.

Mr Howlett said the Manx shearwater has slightly more white feathers than others but that was probably just its individual markings rather than a sign of old age.

Bird wings it at 50 plus
30 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
Old bird breaks UK record
18 Apr 02  |  Science/Nature

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