Pterodroma alba


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Pterodroma alba
Species Authority: (Gmelin, 1789)
Common Name(s):
English Phoenix Petrel
Spanish Petrel de las Phoenix

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A3bce+4bce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Bell, B., Bretagnolle, V., Kepler, A., Piazza, A., Raust, P., Rauzon, M., Schreiber, E., Thibault, J. & Watling, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Calvert, R., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J., Temple, H.
This species has a small population which is in decline owing to predation by rats and cats. Its breeding range is small and declining and probably consists of fewer than ten locations. Trends are difficult to assess as breeding is variable both within and between years. The majority of birds breed on Kiritimati on which black rats have recently arrived. A very rapid population reduction is consequently predicted and this species therefore qualifies as Endangered.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Pterodroma alba breeds in the Line and Phoenix Islands (Kiribati), Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia), and Pitcairn Islands (to UK) (c.12-20 pairs on Oeno in 1997 and 1998 [Bell and Bell 1998, B. Bell verbally 1999]). In the Line Islands, the stronghold is Kiritimati (= Christmas Island) where, in 1967, the population was estimated at c.6,500 adults (Schreiber and Ashmole 1970) and, in 1980-1982, 20,000-25,000 (Perry 1980, Garnett 1984). Since then, it has apparently decreased, although previous estimates may have been too high (M. Rauzon in litt. 1999). In 2007, the population on Kiritimati was estimated at 2,300-3,800 pairs (per J.-C. Thibault in litt. 2012). In 1957, motus Tabu and Upua (islets in the main lagoon) supported c.800 nests each (Gallager 1960), in 1993, 50 and 40 pairs respectively (Jones, unknown), and in 1999, 200 and 300 (D. Watling in litt. 1999). In the Phoenix Islands, there were 50+ pairs on Canton in 1987 (Teebaki 1987), but none were found in surveys in 1995 and 1996 (nor did residents recall seeing them) (Flint and Bailey 1995, Flint et al. 1996), although, in 1999, it appeared common on Phoenix (A. D. Piazza per D. Watling in litt. 1999). In the Marquesas, it was present on two motus off Ua Pou in 1989 and 1990, on Fatu Huku (five pairs) in 1990 (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999) and more than 250 pairs were recorded on Hatuta'a Island in 2007 (Gangloff et al. 2009), although the population there in November 2010 was estimated at c.100 adults (J.-C. Thibault in litt. 2012). At Fatu Huku, c.12 birds were observed flying and one incubating in July 2011 (J.-F. Butaud per J.-C. Thibault in litt. 2012). At least one pair was found breeding on Hatu-Iti (=Motu Iti) (Marquesas Islands) in March 2010 (Champeau et al. 2011). There are no recent confirmed records from the Tuamotus (Holyoak and Thibault 1984) or Tonga (M. Rauzon in litt. 1999). During the non-breeding season it disperses over much of the tropical Pacific as far north as Hawaii and as far south as the Kermadec Islands (Gangloff et al. 2009).

French Polynesia; Kiribati; Pitcairn
Regionally extinct:
Present - origin uncertain:
American Samoa (American Samoa); Cook Islands; Niue; Samoa; Tokelau; Tuvalu; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Wallis and Futuna
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: While population details are often uncertain, it appears this is now a scarce species, perhaps numbering only 10,000 breeding pairs and 30,000 individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It nests in colonies on islets or islands at low altitude, often coral atolls or volcanic islands, and feeds mainly on squid, supplemented by fish and crustaceans; it may obtain much food by following cetaceans (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Carboneras 1992d).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Birds only appear to survive on islands without cats. The arrival of black rat Rattus rattus on Kiritimati is a major worry and is likely to lead to a very rapid population reduction (Dovey 2002). Predation by Polynesian rat R. exulans and subsistence hunting are additional threats of unknown effect (Holyoak 1975, Brooke 1995a, M. Rauzon in litt. 1999), although rats do not appear to be affecting population levels on Hatuta'a Island (Gangloff et al. 2009). On Kiritimati, a proposed satellite launch facility could have significant effects.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
On Kiritimati, a cat eradication programme has failed to limit predation by feral cats outside villages (M. Rauzon in litt. 1999, E. A. Schreiber in litt. 1999). There are plans to attract the species to cat-free Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge (200 miles from Kiritimati) using acoustic playback recorders (Rauzon 1985). On Oeno and Ducie, R. exulans was successfully eradicated in 1997 (B. Bell verbally 1999). In the Marquesas there is on-going work to keep protected areas free of introduced predators (P. Raust in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys of and monitor known colonies (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, M. Rauzon in litt. 1999), especially in the Phoenix Islands (A. K. Kepler in litt. 2000), and search for new ones, e.g. in the Tuamotus (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999). Assess risks of rat introduction and effects of island development (M. Rauzon in litt. 1999). Eradicate rats and cats from existing colonies (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, M. Rauzon in litt. 1999), including throughout the Line and Phoenix islands (A. K. Kepler in litt. 2000). Carry out plans to attract the species to cat-free Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge (200 miles from Kiritimati), using acoustic playback recorders.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Pterodroma alba. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 28 August 2015.
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