Pterodroma deserta 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Procellariidae

Scientific Name: Pterodroma deserta Mathews, 1934
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Desertas Petrel
Spanish Petrel de las Desertas
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Taxonomic Notes:

Pterodroma feae and P. deserta (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as P. feae following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Identification information: 35 cm. Medium-sized grey and white gadfly petrel. Grey upperparts with dark cap and dark "M" across wings. White underparts with indistinct pale grey half collar across upper breast. Predominantly dark grey-brown underwing. Similar spp. Zino's Petrel P. madeira is virtually identical but has a narrower, shorter bill and shorter wings. P. feae appears identical, though there are subtle vocal differences. Voice. On breeding grounds a range of wailing, cackling, ululating and hiccuping calls. Silent at sea.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D1+2 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Bourne, W., Gangloff, B., Geraldes, P., Menezes, D., Oliveira, P., Paiva, V., Ramirez, I., Sultana, J. & Zino, F.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Ashpole, J, Capper, D., Derhé, M., Moreno, R., O'Brien, A., Peet, N., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This newly split species is listed as Vulnerable because, although it appears to be stable, it has a very small population, occupying a very small range on only one island when breeding, and is susceptible to human impacts, including introduced species and stochastic events.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species breeds on Bugio in the Desertas off Madeira, Portugal. Based on surveys in 2006-2007, 120-150 pairs were estimated to breed on Bugio (a lower figure than previous estimates of 150-180 from 2001), but the population appears stable (Ramirez 2008). The most recent estimate puts the population at 160-180 pairs (Menezes et al. 2010, BirdLife International 2015, Ramírez et al. 2015). Recently published studies has cast light on the species’s non-breeding distribution, with 71 annual tracks (43 individuals; 2007-2013)  remaining in the North Atlantic during the pre-laying exodus, incubation and chick-rearing periods, and wintering in five areas: two off the Brazilian coast, one around the Cape Verde archipelago, one off the south-eastern coast of the U.S.A., and one in pelagic waters in the central South Atlantic (Ramírez et al. 2013, 2015).

Countries occurrence:
Morocco; Portugal (Madeira)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:4Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:61500000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):50
Upper elevation limit (metres):300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Surveys in 2006-2007 suggested that 120-150 pairs bred on Bugio (Ramirez 2008). The most recent estimate is 160-180 pairs (Menezes et al. 2010, BirdLife International 2015). Based on these data, the population is placed in the band for 250-999 mature individuals, assumed to equate to c.350-1,500 individuals in total.

Trend Justification:  The population is suspected to be stable (Ramirez 2008), although the species faces a number of threats and is susceptible to stochastic events and human impacts.

Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:250-999Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species breeds at 80-300 m, usually in burrows excavated in the soil, although recently nests were found in rock crevices in areas where soil is not present (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). Birds return to their breeding grounds in early June, incubation occurs between mid-July and mid-August and juveniles fledge throughout November-December (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007, Ramírez et al. 2013, Ramos et al. 2016). 

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):16
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Historically, the species and its breeding sites have been affected by habitat degradation caused by introduced goats, rabbits and mice (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). These threats were targetted through EU-funds during the period 2006-2010 (LIFE06 NAT/P/000184) and have been monitored since then. Introduced  rabbits, goats and mice have not been recorded in the breeding plateu since 2008 (D. Menezes pers comm. 2016, F. Zino pers. comm. 2016). Predation and disturbance by Yellow-legged Gulls Larus cachinnans are potential threats on Bugio. Despite mitigation work, soil erosion at nesting areas remains a threat (J. Sultana in litt. 2013, I. Ramirez in litt. 2014), with extreme weather events, especially in winter, having the potential for major impacts on the areas of soil used for nesting burrows (I. Ramirez in litt. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Conservation Actions Underway

A European action plan was published in 1996 (Zino et al. 1996) and its implementation reviewed in 2010 (Barov and Derhé 2011). Since 2006, an eradication programme for rabbits and mice has been in force, and it is believed that these species may not longer inhabit Bugio island (yet no official communication has been made by Natural Park Authorities, so island is not yet declared alien-free (Ramírez, pers.comm. 2016). The threat from L. michahellis is being monitored (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). Natural vegetation replanting, together with  anti-erosion blankets and building of artificial nests were all part of a successful EU-funded project (2006-2010, LIFE06 NAT/P/000184). Wardening and monitoring have since been in place on Bugio’s south plateu (Menezes 2007, Menezes et al. 2011), yet an increase in the monitoring effort of both natural and artificial nests is yet needed. Geolocators are being attached to breeding individuals from 2007 onwards (on a yearly basis) to investigate foraging ecology (Ramirez 2013, Ramírez et al. 2015, Ramos et al. 2016). In 2016 gps-loggers have also been fitted to some breeding individuals (Ramírez pers.comm). Monitoring of the species is carried out by staff from the Madeiran Natural Park and other researchers, although such work requires great efforts, as the southern plateau of Bugio is extremely remote (I. Ramirez in litt. 2014). 

Conservation Actions Proposed

Conduct coordinated surveys to obtain an up-to-date estimate for the total breeding population. Continue annual surveys to monitor population trends, adult survival and breeding success. Increase efforts to monitor soil erosion and continue to build/replace artificial nest. Refine the characterisation of theat-sea distribution of the species, using high-resolution tracking devices. Continue monitoring measures against rabbits and mice. Assess the impact of L. michahellis through detailed research. 

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Ticked this species as a breeding endemic.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Pterodroma deserta (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22736135A119180790. . Downloaded on 14 August 2018.
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