SEA-BIRDS AT LAGOS AND IN THE GULF OF GUINEA

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Summary

Regular observations of sea-birds were made in the vicinity of Lagos, southwest Nigeria, between October 1967 and June 1971. Records in the Gulf of Guinea were obtained in April 1969 and, together with others from Ghana and Sierra Leone, were used to complement this study. While few large populations of sea-birds are supported, the diversity of species occurring at Lagos and over offshore deep water was great. The occurrence of nine species of sea-bird new to Nigeria was established or confirmed; most of these were also new to West Africa southeast of Gambia. Details are given of fluctuations in numbers these and a further 16 species.

All coastal habitats at Lagos supported a large population of immature Black Terns, and groups of immatures made up a high proportion of observations of other Palaearctic terns and of Royal Terns, which breed only in northwest Africa. In contrast, the Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Damara Terns reaching Lagos (from breeding grounds almost two continents apart) were mainly adults; both these species are amongst those showing a current increase in numbers. A pronounced spring passage was observed among species including Royal and Sandwich Terns, but adult movements in autumn were not elucidated. The occurrence of the European race of the Little Tern in southwest Nigeria was confirmed, it is at least a regular spring migrant. The frequency of vagrants in January and February was linked to local climate as much to general distribution. Brief comment is also given on immature plumages, and the growing exploitation and pollution of coastal waters.

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