Feeding Habits of Westman Islands’ Mysterious Nocturnal Birds Tracked

Leach's petrel

GPS trackers weighing just 0.95 grammes will help scientists track the movements of three species of elusive nocturnal birds that stay in the Westman Islands, South Iceland, for a part of each year, RÚV reports. The three species are the manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), Leach’s petrel (Oceanodroma leucorrhoa), and the storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), all of which winter in the southern hemisphere – on both sides of the Atlantic.

“This has never been done in Iceland before, and we are in fact mapping the feeding areas of these species,” explained Erpur Snær Hansen, director of the South Iceland Nature Research Centre. Results from the miniscule trackers placed on Leach’s petrels and manx shearwaters have already begun to arrive, while data from the storm petrels are expected to arrive later this summer.

Travelled 600 kilometres to feed

The three species are related and are all nocturnal. “They only come ashore to the outlying Westman Islands at night, so they are rarely seen anywhere else,” Erpur stated. He compared the petrels’ flight to that of bats, saying they were “mysterious in many ways.”

The GPS trackers have revealed that the Leach’s petrels in the Westman Islands feed to the west of the archipelago, at the edge of the continental shelf. However, data shows that individuals sometimes travel much farther. “One of them decided to go all the way to Rockall, which is 600 kilometres [373 miles] to the south, and they go quite far,” Erpur remarked. “They go to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the big whales are, so they go south and across a very large area.”

Rockall Liam Mason
Liam Mason via Wikimedia Commons Images. Rockall, some 600 kilometres south of Iceland.


Numbers have decreased in the Atlantic

Placing the minuscule trackers on the birds is not easy. “It’s a bit of a hassle because they live underground, and we need to find them and get them out,” Erpur explained. “We play their call and they answer us and then we know where they live, but it’s another challenge altogether to get in there, grab them, and put the equipment on.” The GPS devices do not include transmitters, so the birds must be retrieved in order to read the data.

The Leach’s petrels that summer in Iceland winter in both Namibia and Brazil. Manx shearwaters winter in Argentina. Erpur says the species are not numerous and the number of Leach’s petrels in the Atlantic has decreased. The data is expected to help evaluate how the birds are doing, as well as compare the two petrel species.

Plans to Raise Mandatory Retirement Age for Healthcare Staff to 75

Iceland’s Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson wants to speed up plans to raise the mandatory retirement age for healthcare workers to 75, RÚV reports. Public employees may not work past the age of 70 according to current regulations. Willum has stated that the move is intended to help relieve staffing issues that plague Iceland’s healthcare system, though more needs to be done.

If the regulations are amended, healthcare workers will still be dismissed upon reaching the age of 70, but would be eligible to be rehired on a new employment contract until the age of 75. Willum stated that such employees may be subject to a skills assessment.

Read More: Chairman of Medical Association Warns of Doctor Shortage

The Health Minister stated that although raising the mandatory retirement age would hopefully relieve staffing issues, it would still be necessary to make various medical professions more accessible to young people and improve recruitment across the field.

Controversial Telecommunications Company Sale Up in the Air

fibreoptic cable infrastructure

French company Ardian is not prepared to finalise its purchase of Icelandic telecommunications company Míla unless the purchase agreement is amended, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Competition Authority set several conditions for the purchase following a meeting with Ardian representatives last week, informing the company that the purchase would not be approved unless those conditions were met. Ardian’s spokespeople say that one of the conditions contradicts the terms of the purchase agreement.

Key infrastructure valued at ISK 78 billion

Míla, which owns and operates nationwide telecommunications systems in Iceland, was sold to Ardian last year. All of Iceland’s homes, businesses, and institutions are serviced by Míla’s telecommunications infrastructure, which includes copper wire, fibreoptic, and microwave systems. The purchase agreement from last October was evaluated at ISK 78 billion [$570 million; €562 million].

Various parties in Iceland have expressed concern regarding the sale of such important infrastructure to a foreign company. Iceland’s government imposed certain conditions on the sale as well as amending legislation in an effort to ensure national security would not be compromised by Ardian’s ownership of Míla. Ardian

Further negotiations likely

A notice from Síminn to Nasdaq Iceland stated that the Competition Authority’s conditions were burdensome and negatively impacted the purchase agreement for Ardian. The notice stated that further negotiations were required between Síminn and Ardian, as well as between Ardian and the Competition Authority. Ardian is a fund management company and its representatives have stated that the purchase of Míla is a long-term investment.

Ardian representatives have not specified the details of the dispute.