Pterodroma leucoptera 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Procellariidae

Scientific Name: Pterodroma leucoptera (Gould, 1844)
Common Name(s):
English White-winged Petrel, Collared Petrel
Spanish Petrel de Gould
Taxonomic Source(s): Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Identification information: 30 cm Small, black-capped gadfly petrel. White forehead merging into dark brownish-grey cap and sides of cheeks. Grey upperparts with strong, dark "M" across wings and dark tail tip. Some birds show palepatch on inner primaries of upperwing. White underparts. White underwing with dark tip and trailing edge. Dark leading edge extends to well-defined black mark leading towards body from carpal joint. Similar spp. Broader dark leading margin to underwing than other "Cookilaria" species. Black-winged Petrel P. nigripennis has a much paler grey head. Collared Petrel P. brevipes has variably complete breast-band, decidedly bolder black marking along leading edge of wing, and is sometimes almost entirely dark ventrally.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B2ab(ii,v); D2 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
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. & Vidal, E.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Moreno, 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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pterodroma leucoptera only breeds in Australia and New Caledonia (to France). A small colony on Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, 2016) is closer to P. brevipes than to P. leucoptera. While the two main sub populations in New Caledonia and Australia are similar genetically it has been argued that they should be considered as independent units for conservation management, given their strong ecological distinctiveness (foraging distribution, winter distribution, breeding phenology and breeding distribution (Iglesias-V et al. in prep.). In Australia, P. 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) (Carlile et al. 2012) and Little Broughton Island (0.3 km2) (Carlile et al. 2013), 12 km northeast of Cabbage Tree and two sites 435 km south of Cabbage Tree on Montague Island (0.8 km2) (Fullagar et al. 2013) and Tollgates (0.1 km2) (Carlile et al. 2014). 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, one main breeding sites of caledonica of 2,000-5,000 pairs is known on Mts Dzumac, another smaller breeding site (size unknown) occurs on south-eastern Dzumacs, and a calling birds were found near Poya. Known breeding sites are at 350-650 m (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007, 2016). 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 (still extant at least on Erromango and Tanna) are not this species, but P. brevipes (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2016). Australian birds and New Caledonian birds disperse in different areas of central Pacific, with some birds even found western Australia (Rayner et al. 2014). Three individuals have been sighted over the waters around Fiji (T. Pyn in litt. 2008), and four around the Windward Islands (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 (Priddel et al.2014).

Countries occurrence:
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
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:20Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:152000000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:7Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Based on currently known colonies, 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 2009). However, this is pending on the discovery of possible new colonies in New Caledonia.

Trend Justification:  There are no data on population trends in caledonica, and although leucoptera is now stable the species is suspected to be declining overall, owing mainly to predation of nesting adults and chicks.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2000-14000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

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 or in rock scree on exposed slopes in Australia (Priddel and Carlile 1997a,b; V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, Bretagnolle in Brooke 2004, Carlile et al. 2012, Carlile et al. 2013, Carlile et al. 2015). 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 (Priddel et al. 2014). Banded adult birds have lived to more than 40 years of age (D. Priddel in litt. 2012). 

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):15.6
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

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) or eat chicks at fledgling time (V. Bretagnolle, pers. Obs.). Feral cats have now clearly been proved to strongly prey upon White-winged Petrel in New-Caledonia. An important study focus on feral cat diet and its impact on the New-Caledonian archipelago based on scat analysis showed a 35% of frequency of occurance of petrels (Palmas et al. in prep.). 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 1994 to perhaps fewer than 20 nests in 2005 after the invasion of rats, dated in 2002 (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 between 2009 and 2012 (N. Carlile in litt. 2012), then was done again in 2013 to 2014, and has again stopped since then.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Survey potential breeding areas in New Caledonia. 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. Considering the huge impact due to feral cats in New-Caledonia breeding sites, control campaigns are urgently needed.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Pterodroma leucoptera. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697970A95223991. . Downloaded on 18 December 2017.
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