New Zealand storm petrel

The New Zealand storm petrel (Fregetta maoriana) (NZSP) is a bird that skipped in from extinction in 2003, known previously only from three museum specimens collected in the 19th century. In 2013 NZSP were found breeding on Hauturu / Little Barrier Island. This remains the only known breeding site for this enigmatic species, defying the odds, hanging on just long enough in the presence of cats and rats to be detected. In 2006 predators were finally confirmed eradicated.

Using mark-recapture methods – from both captures on land and observations of banded birds at sea in 2014 and 2015 we have estimated the population of NZSP on Hauturu to be approximately 1600 individuals. Though anecdotal evidence suggests this population may be increasing accurate data are yet to be obtained. In 2023, we will repeat the earlier methods, and, with funding from the Birds NZ Research Fund,will provide the first solid data to assess the population trajectory of NZSP.

Confirming the population trajectory of the NZSP is critical for informed conservation status designation, currently Critically Endangered (IUCN) and Vulnerable (NZTCS). The Hauturu survey provides a consistent technique to monitor any population changes. This is especially relevant, considering the soon to be released results from the NZSP genomics study (also funded through the Birds NZ Research Fund), relating to the importance of Hauturu breeding population.

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