Pterodroma leucoptera


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Pterodroma leucoptera
Species Authority: (Gould, 1844)
Common Name(s):
English White-winged Petrel, Collared Petrel
Spanish Petrel de Gould

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B2ab(v);D2 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Bretagnolle, V., Carlile, N., Dutson, G., Hannecart, F., Priddel, D., Spaggiari, J. & Tennyson, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Stattersfield, A. & Taylor, J.
This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small breeding range and a small number of breeding locations, and may be declining overall owing to predation by introduced mammals. Although the Australian breeding population is currently increasing through conservation action, the New Caledonian population is undoubtedly in decline.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Pterodroma leucoptera mainly breeds in Australia and New Caledonia (to France). There is also a small colony on Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000). In Australia, leucoptera breeds on Cabbage Tree (0.3 km2) and adjacent Boondelbah (0.1 km2) Islands. It has also been recently found to breed on at least three sites on Broughton Island (1.3 km2) and Little Broughton Island (0.3 km2), 12 km northeast of Cabbage Tree (Carlile et al. in press). On Cabbage Tree, population estimates indicated a decline from 2,004 birds in 1970 to 1,157 in 1993 (Priddel and Carlile 1997b). However, conservation action undertaken since 1993 has seen the number of nesting pairs increase annually from fewer than 250 to c.1,025 in 2001, and numbers appear to be currently stable between 800-1000 pairs (Priddel and Carlile 2007, 2009). Following a translocation programme in 1999, approximately 50 pairs breed on Boondelbah (Priddel et al. 2006, D. Priddel in litt. 2012). In New Caledonia, three main breeding sites of caledonica of 1,000-2,000 pairs are known between Mts Dzumac and Poya, at 350-650 m (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Based on sightings at sea off New Caledonia, there may be c.1,000-10,000 pairs in total, although more colonies may lie undiscovered in isolated massifs on New Caledonia (Meeth and Meeth 1983, Bretagnolle and Thomas 1990, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, Bretagnolle in Brooke 2004, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Petrels known historically from Vanuatu (possibly still extant) may be this species (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000), or an undescribed taxon (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Australian birds presumably disperse with New Caledonian birds to the Tasman Sea and the far east Pacific (Imber and Jenkins 1981, Meeth and Meeth 1983, Bretagnolle and Thomas 1990, Marchant and Higgins 1990). Three individuals have been sighted over the waters around Fiji (T. Pyn in litt. 2008), and four around the Windward Islands (Champeau 2010). There is also some evidence pointing to the presence of small colonies on Tahiti (Champeau 2010). Non-breeders forage in the Southern Ocean as far south as the Antarctic coast (D. Priddel in litt. 2012). Recent tracking studies have revealed that during the non-breeding season, both subspecies migrate across the Pacific, but use different migration routes and over-winter in different regions of the ocean; leucoptera in the central Pacific south of Hawaii, and caledonia in the Eastern Pacific west of Ecuador (D. Priddel in litt. 2012).

American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; Cook Islands; French Polynesia; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Niue; Norfolk Island; Peru; Pitcairn; Wallis and Futuna
Present - origin uncertain:
Ecuador; Fiji; Kiribati; Samoa; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Vanuatu
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population is estimated to number 3,000-21,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,000-14,000 mature individuals (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000; Garnet and Crowley 2000, Priddel and Carlile 2007).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It breeds in small, loose colonies of 10-50 pairs in burrows on steep, vegetated slopes on New Caledonia between 350 and 650 m, and among rocks and debris of cabbage tree palm Livistona australis in Australia (Priddel and Carlile 1997a,b; V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, Bretagnolle in Brooke 2004). During breeding, it feeds mainly cephalopods, fish and crustaceans (McGee et al. submitted), taken in the Tasman Sea and in the waters off southern Australia (D. Priddel in litt. 2012). Banded adult birds have lived to more than 40 years of age (D. Priddel in litt. 2012).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Cabbage Tree population declined as a result of predation by Pied Currawong Strepera graculina and Australian Raven Corvus coronoides, and entanglement in birdlime tree Pisonia umbellifera fruit (Priddel and Carlile 2007). Introduced rabbits have probably changed the island's vegetation to favour increased populations of S. graculina and Pisonia (Priddel and Carlile 1997b), as well as making the birds more susceptible to predation. On New Caledonia, introduced pigs excavate chicks from burrows (F. Hannecart in litt. 1999), and cats are another potential threat. Black rats Rattus rattus have been found predating both eggs and adults and this may constitute a major threat: a previously rat-free colony declined from 125-250 pairs in 2002 to perhaps fewer than 20 nests in 2005 after the invasion of rats (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Tens of birds probably are accidentally killed annually between January and April around Noumea when they are attracted to lights, continuing urbanisation is likely to make this situation worse (SCO in litt. 2007). In 1995, egg abandonment on Cabbage Tree suggested unidentified marine threats, although it coincided with an Australia-wide die-off of pilchards Sadinops sagax neopilchardus (Priddel and Carlile 1997b, Carlile et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
On Cabbage Tree, Pisonia is being removed, rabbits have been extirpated (Priddel et al. 2000), S. graculina and C. coronoides are controlled, and other predators are monitored (Carlile et al. 2003, Priddel and Carlile 2009). As a result breeding success has increased from 20% to 50% (Priddel and Carlile 2007). Two hundred fledglings have been translocated from Cabbage Tree to Boondelbah where a small colony is now established (Priddle et al. 2006). In New Caledonia SCO have implemented an annual campaign to save petrels which are attracted to lights (SCO in litt. 2007). In 2007, nine birds were found and five released alive, but numbers must be higher and SCO hopes to make this campaign a major event (SCO in litt. 2007). In New Caledonia, the local government previously funded a rat control program near a large breeding colony (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Poison was set in October each year, before the petrels arrive and before the wet season (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). This action has since been discontinued (N. Carlile in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey potential breeding areas in New Caledonia. Clarify its taxonomy. Assess breeding success and predation levels. Control introduced mammals. Monitor Australian populations biennially. In New Caledonia, study the impact of light pollution (and urbanisation) on the species. Increase the scope of the campaigns to save birds attracted to lights in the Noumea area.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Pterodroma leucoptera. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 31 August 2015.
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