Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 14:46 UK

'Oldest' bird enjoys island life

A razorbill (pic - Tommy Holden/BTO)
The razorbill is not the oldest bird living on Bardsey Island

An island off the coast of Gwynedd is home to what is believed to be Britain's oldest razorbill.

The cliff-nesting bird usually lives to around 13 years but the Bardsey Island razorbill is 41 years old.

He was a chick at the time of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper and when Harold Wilson was prime minister.

But he still is a "junior" on the island compared to a Manx shearwater, who is 51. They normally have a lifespan of up to 30 years.

There are two other "record breaking" birds found in north Wales by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The others are a 31-year-old curlew and a 20-year-old turnstone. All the birds were tracked by their BTO rings.

The razorbill was spotted in the same place as it was ringed as a chick on the cliffs of Bardsey Island in 1967.

The curlew, which would normally be expected to live for around five years, was found breeding in Germany, after being ringed in north Wales.

BACK IN 1967
The Beatles in 1967
Beatles' Sgt Pepper released
First colour TV broadcast in Britain
Pamela Anderson and Noel Gallagher were born
Radio 1 was launched
The first cash machine was brought in
The QE2 was launched
Elvis Presley got married

Mark Grantham, from the BTO ringing unit said: "These birds really are the extremes, and show the importance of bird ringing here in the UK."

He said bird ringing helped ornithologists find out what affects bird's survival, how they move around, and how climate change could change this.

"Survival is the key thing. We can look at the number of birds we ring and see how many are re-caught or found dead," he said.

The birds are caught and ringed by BTO volunteers, but the Bardsey one was caught by Steve Stansfield who lives on the island and works in the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory.

Mr Stansfield described his catch as "quite exciting", although he did not realise at first that the bird was so old.


"Basically you don't know until you imput the date (contained on the ring) and sometimes it can be several weeks before you get the information back," he said.

The island's other old timer, the Manx shearwater, is known to be 51 years old.

"They usually live 20-30 years and it was last caught in May this year," said Mr Stansfield.

Island life was "particularly good" for the birds because of the way the environment was looked after, but it was difficult to translate that to other areas, he said.

"It is good to see these birds doing well here, but it is a little like humans, some just live much longer," he added.

Island couple quit remote farm
03 May 07 |  North West Wales
Calls to bring island crown home
23 Jun 08 |  North West Wales


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