Petrel (Black petrel) Procellaria parkinsoni
Species: P. parkinsoni
Binomial name: Procellaria parkinsoni
Synonyms: Macaques parkinsoni
Common name: Black petrel, Parkinson's petrel,
Procellaria parkinsoni (Black petrel) is a medium-sized petrel, the smallest of the Procellaria. The Black petrel is totally black except for pale sections on the bill. It has a wingspan that averages 110 cm. Black petrels range from the east coast of Australia all the way to the coast of South America between Mexico and Peru and the Galapagos islands.
This species is an endemic breeder of New Zealand, where breeding is restricted to the main colony on Great Barrier Island (c. 5000 birds over summer, including approximately 1300 breeding pairs and 1000 “pre-breeders” seeking mates. A small colony is present on Little Barrier Island of c. 250 birds. (Imber 1987).
They were previously they found throughout North Island and Northwest Nelson but predators (feral cats, pigs) caused their extinction on the mainland from about the 1950s.
Breeding takes place from October to June in the Hauraki Gulf. The adults return to the colony in mid-October to clean burrows, pair and mate with the same partner. Males will return to the same burrow every year and try to attract another female if their mate does not return or if there is a “divorce” (about 12% annually) (Bell et al. 2011).
Pairs then depart on “honeymoon”, returning to the colony again in late November when the females lay a single egg (Imber 1987).
Both birds share incubation of the egg for 57 days (about 8 weeks) (Imber 1987).
Eggs can hatch from late January through February (Imber 1987).
Chicks fledge after 107 days (15 weeks) from mid-April through to late June (Imber 1987) - about 75% of chicks survive to fledge (Bell et al. 2011).
In 2011 breeding success fell to 61% (Bell, unpublished data) for unknown reasons
Adults and chicks migrate to South America for winter (to waters off the Ecuador coast) (Imber 1987, Bell et al. In press B) – only 10% of fledged chicks survive this first year.
Juveniles will remain at sea in the West Pacific for 3–4 years until they are ready to breed – survival rate is 46% during this time vs 90% for birds over 3 years old (Bell et al. 2011).
At about 4 years old, pre-breeding birds will fly back to the colony to find a mate – this may take 1-2 seasons (Bell et al. 2011).
They feed at night and during the day (unlike albatrosses which do not feed at night. Birds will aggressively follow fishing boats and longline hooks and may dive up to 20m below the surface after baits (Imber 1976).
Black petrels are caught by commercial and recreational fishers both in New Zealand and overseas (Abraham et al. 2010, Thompson 2010, Richard et al. 2011).
Ministry of Fisheries research shows the black petrel is the most at risk seabird in NZ from commercial fishing, estimating that between 725 and 1524 birds may have been killed each year in the period 2003 to 2009 (Richard et al. 2011).
Petrels may be drowned by taking long line hooks after they are set (launched) or when they are being pulled onto boats.
Inshore snapper and bluenose bottom longline fisheries are the greatest risks, especially where fisheries overlap with foraging patterns of breeding birds (Richard et al. 2011).
On Great Barrier, feral pigs are known to dig up burrows and eat eggs and chicks – in one example in 1996 pigs destroyed 8 burrows in one incident (Bell & Sim 1998).
Feral cats can kill adults on the ground or at the nest as well as chicks
Cat numbers on Great Barrier are impacted by trapping by the Department of Conservation in the Whangapoua basin but there has been no specific protection of the colony to date.
Kiore and ship rats are also present on Great Barrier but predation levels are between 1 and 6.5% per annum (Bell et al. 2011); kiore cannot eat through a black petrel egg. The risk to black petrel survival from a one-off event/events is significant due to limited habitat for breeding / i.e. a single site on Hirakimata on Great Barrier Island (for example fire, storm damage or predator invasion at the main colony). (Wikipedia)
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