Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Procellariidae

Scientific Name: Pterodroma deserta
Species Authority: Mathews, 1934
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Desertas Petrel
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. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
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: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-07-24
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Bourne, W., Gangloff, B., Geraldes, P., Menezes, D., Oliveira, P., Ramirez, I. & Sultana, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Capper, D., Derhé, M., 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:
2010 Not Recognized (NR)
2008 Not Recognized (NR)
2004 Not Recognized (NR)
2000 Not Recognized (NR)
1994 Not Recognized (NR)
1988 Not Recognized (NR)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Pterodroma deserta breeds on Bugio in the Desertas off Madeira, Portugal. Based on surveys in 2006-2007, 120-150 pairs breed on Bugio (a lower figure than previous estimates of 150-180 from 2001), but the population appears stable (Ramirez 2008). A recently published study has cast light on the species’s non-breeding distribution, with 17 tracked individuals remaining in the North Atlantic during the pre-laying exodus, incubation and check-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 USA, and one in pelagic waters in the central South Atlantic (Ramírez et al. 2013).

Countries occurrence:
Morocco; Portugal
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 4
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 32500000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 1
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Lower elevation limit (metres): 80
Upper elevation limit (metres): 300
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Surveys in 2006-2007 suggest that 120-150 pairs breed on Bugio (Ramirez 2008). 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.

For further information about this species, see 22736135_pterodroma_deserta.pdf.
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Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 250-999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: No
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All 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 were soil is not present (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). Birds return to their breeding grounds in early June and juveniles fledge throughout December (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007.

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). However, rabbits and mice have been controlled since 2006 (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007) and goats are reported to only rarely visit the plateau where the breeding sites are located on Bugio (Ramirez 2008). 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 is on-going. As a result, their effect on the most sensitive areas is already negligible. A contingency plan for accidental introductions of invasive species is being developed. A goat eradication programme is on-going and not yet complete. The threat from L. cachinnans is being monitored (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). Natural vegetation has been replanted, anti-erosion blankets installed, wardening and monitoring conducted and artificial burrows installed on Bugio as part of a LIFE Nature project (Menezes 2007; Menezes et al. 2011). Geolocators were attached to some individuals from 2007 to investigate foraging ecology (Ramirez 2008). 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. Study the at-sea distribution of the species. Complete control measures against goats. Continue control measures against rabbits and mice. Assess the impact of L. cachinnans through detailed research.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2014. Pterodroma deserta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T22736135A40845826. . Downloaded on 09 October 2015.
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