The breeding cycle, year-round distribution and activity patterns of the endangered Chatham Petrel (Pterodroma axillaris)
Petrels are highly mobile seabirds that face many threats and whose conservation is frequently hampered by a lack of understanding of their biology at sea. We used a combination of data from burrow monitoring and geolocation-immersion loggers to study the intra-and inter-seasonal distribution and behaviour of the endangered Chatham Petrel (Pterodroma axillaris), breeding on Rangatira Island, New Zealand. Breeding extended from November to June with a pre-laying exodus of 35 days; an incubation period of 46 days, with up to five incubation shifts; and a chick-rearing period of 87 days, including a desertion period of 10 days. When breeding, Chatham Petrels foraged between the Subtropical Convergence and Subantarctic Fronts, moving 2000-3000 km to the south-east of the Chatham Islands, during the pre-laying exodus and incubation period, but restricting foraging to the south of the Chatham Islands, around the Bollons Seamount, during chick-rearing. Between April and June birds migrated east and north to core non-breeding distributions similar to 1000 km from the coast of Peru and Chile. Birds spent a greater proportion of time resting and nocturnally active during the non-breeding period than when breeding, when birds where active during darkness and daylight. These data contribute to the conservation management of the Chatham Petrel and to conservation initiatives to identity marine protected areas for endangered seabirds on the high seas beyond national jurisdictions.
Authors: Rayner, Matt J., Taylor, Graeme A., Gummer, Helen D., Phillips, Richard A., Sagar, Paul M., Shaffer, Scott A., Thompson, David R.