22 February 2012

Sea Birds from South Georgia..



To be  issued on  : 21 March, 2012

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This stamp issue, produced in association with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), recognizes some of the lesser-known species of seabird breeding on South Georgia. The species depicted are part of the rich biodiversity found in South Georgia's unique environment. WWF is one of the world's leading conservation organisations who work towards conservation and sustainability.

The cold waters around South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are highly productive and provide rich feeding grounds for many species of seabirds. Twenty five species of seabird breed on South Georgia (with two additional species, Adélie penguin and Antarctic fulmar, breeding on the South Sandwich Islands) and many vagrant and non-breeding species are also seen around the islands.

Imperial shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) (60p)

The imperial shag is found in rocky coastal areas and breeds in small colonies in most parts of South Georgia. They are a monogamous species and usually lay 2 -3 eggs (though can lay up to 5). Laying occurs in October/November with eggs taking 5 weeks to hatch and fledging occurring in March. Their nests are made of seaweed and grass glued together with mud and guano. Imperial shags forage mainly in inshore areas (though can also travel further offshore) on small fish, crustaceans, polychaetes, gastropods and octopuses. They dive down to an average of 28m for around 5 minutes to catch their prey, although they have been recorded to dive as deep as 70m.

Antarctic tern (Sterna vittata) (70p)

Distributed throughout the Southern Ocean and common throughout the year around South Georgia, the Antarctic tern start breeding from mid-November to early December with chicks fledging in January. Nesting close to shore in natural depressions in the rock or shallow scrapes in the ground, their eggs and chicks are well camouflaged. These small birds (31-38cm long) are susceptible to human disturbance and to predation of their eggs and chicks by rats, however they will defend their nest sites vigorously, dive-bombing anything passing too close. Feeding in inshore waters, often in the kelp zone, their main prey is small fish but they also take crustaceans, polychaetes, molluscs, insects and algae.

Southern skua (Catharacta antarctica) (95p)

The southern skua is a sub-Antarctic species and is regarded as having a stable population. They are distributed widely around South Georgia but are commonest on offshore islands where there are the greatest numbers of small burrowing petrels. Their hooked beak and webbed feet with sharp claws allow the skua to be a highly predatory bird, which, besides burrowing petrels, feed on penguin chicks and eggs. They will also scavenge on carrion on land as well as around fishing vessels. During the winter, skuas migrate northward, departing in April and returning to South Georgia in September. Egg laying starts in November with chicks fledging in late February.

Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) (£1.15p)

Kelp gulls are omnivores with their diet depending on food availability. They take and scavenge on small prey including molluscs, fish, crustaceans, other seabirds and even chicks and eggs of their own species. This coastal gull is common throughout the year around South Georgia and inhabits sheltered bays. They build nests lined with vegetation and feathers which are little more than a shallow depression in the ground. Two or three eggs are laid during November to December and both parents raise the chicks. Fledging takes 45-61 days and the young gulls take 3-4 years to reach maturity.

In addition to the set, there is a Souvenir Sheet showing a Juvenile Southern skua (£3.50p) and a sheetlet of 16 (4 sets in staggered format) with face value of £13.20p.

Read More …

Species information from Bird Life International species factsheets www.birdlife.org


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