There are so many different types of species to learn about in the Shetland area that you could spend days learning about it and still could not be able to cover them all. We are looking forward to introducing visitors of the center to all the unique species that inhabit the area. Here are a few bird species that you will be able to learn more about and help conserve their habitat when you visit Shetland BRC.
The most recognizable bird in the Shetland wildlife is probably the Puffin with its brightly colored bill. The Puffins brightly covered beak is actually a decorative sheath that sheds during the winter months and grows back in the springtime. These unique birds tend to live to about 20 years and often have the same breeding partner throughout those years. While they are not considered endangered, their numbers are declining as a result of less food available due to overfishing as well as on going pollution issues such as oil spills.
One of the reasons the Shetlands are such a wonderful place to come and view these magnificent creatures is because the territory is perfect for bird breeding colonies. One of the must see colonies to view are the Gannet colonies. You will instantly recognize this large white bird from it classic yellowish coloring on its head, its long bill and signature black tipped wings. The Gannet has a unique ability to dive from high heights into the water, allowing them to hunt much deeper for fish.
Another bird that you will come to know as you learn more about wildlife in the Shetland area is the Storm Petrel. The Storm Petrel is one of the smallest seabirds ranging from just 12cm – 26cm. Due to the fact that Storm Petrels only come to land for breeding, the Shetland area is the perfect habitat for them. Sailors believed the birds behavior could be used as warning for turbulent weather to come and often referred to them as “Mother Carey’s Chickens.”
The Razor Bill is another bird species that only comes to land to breed and they use teamwork for the breeding process. The Razor Bill has one partner for life and both parents spend equal time incubating the one egg the female produces a year. You can tell when it is breeding season with the Razor Bill as their coloring will be different. In the breeding season the Razor Bill is recognizable by its black head, neck and feet while in the non breeding season the face and throat become white.
While known around the world as the Black Legged Kittiwake, around the Shetland area, it is just known as Kittiwake. The Kittiwake is about 40cm and its wingspan can run from 90cm-100cm. The parents build their nests way up into to steep cliffs to avoid predators. The Kittiwake is white and grey and gets its name from its signature call which sounds like Kittiwake (we hope you will get to hear this call in person at a visit to the center). The Kittiwake is not a scavenger like some other gull birds but rather preys on fish in the sea.
One of the most important things Shetland BRC would like to teach its visitors is about the effects climate change is having on the wildlife in the area. Recent studies have shown that declining populations of puffins, guillemots and other birds native to the area is connected to climate change. It is imperative that we educate each other on the dangers of climate change. However education is not enough, we must make changes to our lives to reduce our carbon footprints as citizens in addition to pushing lawmakers to make smart informed decisions that help protect the environment. At Shetland BRC we hope our programs will help cover all of these issues for our visitors while simultaneously offer an engaging and fun experience.