When the NZ Storm Petrel was first sighted by Dr Brent Stevenson and Saw
Saville off the Whitianga Coast in January 2003 the news of the
re-appearance of a seabird , unsighted for 150 years and thought
extinct, set the birding world on fire.
Recently a team including Department of Conservation staff and
scientists, funded jointly by DOC and a grant from National Geographic’s
Committee for Research and Exploration, caught three birds during
October and early November this year.
None of the captured birds showed signs of breeding, so the birds were
released without attaching transmitters, said Dr Stephenson. The
transmitters are used to track the birds with the aim of discovering
which island they are breeding on.
DOC officer Karen Baird said it was thought the petrels might be
breeding on islands where rodents had been eradicated such as the
“One of the theories is that the birds survived in very low numbers on
an island where rats were present and once the rats were removed the
birds have been quietly building up in numbers until they began to be
noticed several years ago.”
Last year three storm petrels were caught and fitted with minute radio
transmitters, weighing just one gram. However, extensive searches by
plane around islands in the Hauraki Gulf failed to reveal any of the
birds on land. The photos, measurements and DNA samples from these birds
enabled them to be confirmed as the long
lost New Zealand storm petrel, said Ms Baird.
The New Zealand storm-petrel is about 20 cm long and is black and white
with black streaks on the belly. It lives and feeds at sea, only
returning to land to breed.
Boaties are asked to keep an eye out for this small black and white
bird. Phone sightings to the 24 hour free DOC hotline – 0800 DOCHOT
(362468) – or send photos and details to ‘NZ storm petrel sightings’,
Department of Conservation, PO Box 474, Warkworth. A fact sheet is
available from DOC Warkworth.