The Amazing Mottled Petrel!

Patricia Latas
May 15, 2014 share

Whenua Hou is an island treasure, and the key to the survival of more than just the Kakapo. There are many conservation studies based on this tiny speck of land, and one of the most amazing is the study and translocation of the Mottled Petrel.

 

I was walking the trails one day, and heard the deep rumble of the chartered helicopter on the way to the summit of Whenua Hou. It was to pick up a precious cargo of 44 petrel chicks, and take them to the mainland translocation site; stressful and harrowing for the chicks but even more for the researchers and volunteers. These dedicated people had worked exhausting, 18-hour days to measure, prepare, study the chicks; to haul heavy transport containers on their backs, by foot, on steep paths to the summit of the island--in pitch darkness of predawn; to construct the containers and load them on the chopper. And then to anxiously await word of the chicks' safe arrival and placemnet in artificial burrows. This team was so emotionally involved, yet comminted to the science of the project. Proof that heart and mind are equally useful in the success of a conservation project.

 

This small pelagic seabird, which weighs under a pound, sails the seas from The Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to the Bering Sea in the Arctic. This petrel only breeds on a few tiny islands south of the mainland NZ, one of which is Whenua Hou. The population is at threat of extinction. What a tragedy it would be, to lose such a little known about a bird that roams the great Pacific Ocean!

 

The parents dig a burrow and raise a chick in the safety of predator-free areas. On Whenua Hou, the parent take turns FLYING TO THE ROSS SHELF IN ANTARCTICA TO FISH  and flying all the way back to feed the chick! Each trip takes about 2 weeks, and yet the fattend chicks have to LOSE weight in order to fledge.

 

The birds on Whenua Hou have been studies by a very dedicated team, and chicks carefully monitored over several season. This season, 2014, selected chicks were slated to be moved to a predator-free area on the mainland near Nelson, on the northern part of the South Island, and "fledge" from their new burrows. The chicks always return to the area in which they fledged, to raise their own family. The hope is to re-establish breeding colonies on the mainland and ensure several safe zones across NZ. At last word, all the translocated chicks fledged sucessfully!

 

What an amazing bird. Here are some excellent links to learn more about them:

http://www.poutiri.co.nz/tag/mottled-petrel/

http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/mottled-petrel

 

 

 

 

taking a blood sample from the chick

 

 

checking the length of the wing to see if the chick is near fledging

See video
See video

Location

Whenua Hou, Southland, NZ
New Zealand
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