Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Endangered because it has an extremely small population breeding on six cliff ledges in the central mountain massif of Madeira.
The population is estimated to number 200 individuals, roughly equating to 160 mature individuals.
Prior to the 2010 fires, the breeding population was stable or increasing slightly (Barov and Derhé 2011); with recent increases in population estimates likely the result of increased survey effort (I. Ramírez in litt. 2005). It is too early to determine the effects of the 2010 fires on the long-term trend of the species. However, despite only one juvenile being known to survive of the 38 chicks monitored in 2010, the numbers of fledging chicks in subsequent years has been encouraging.
This species has an estimated breeding population of 65-80 pairs (Menezes et al. 2004), in the central mountain massif of Madeira, Portugal, though subfossil remains elsewhere in Madeira and on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo (Zino & Zino 1986; Zino et al. 2001) suggest that it was formerly more widespread. Currently, birds are only known to breed on six inaccessible ledges - with 53 of the 63 nests surveyed during the 2006 breeding season found to be active - although ongoing surveys may yet reveal more breeding sites (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). A massive forest fire in August 2010 at the species's breeding colony killed several breeding adults and 65% of the year’s chicks. 25 young and 3 adults were found dead at the colony, and only 13 young fledglings were found alive in their underground chambers (P. Oliveira in litt. 2010). As well as the dead birds, the fire exacerbated soil erosion, with several nesting burrows having disappeared. Subsequently, as a result of the ground being barren, making food for predators scarce and the petrel chicks more vulnerable, of the 13 birds originally found alive, only one survived to fledging (BirdLife International 2012). In 2011, 45 nests were found to be occupied with eggs laid in 43 of them. A total of 19 nestlings hatched and 16 chicks fledged (BirdLife International 2012), however, the impact of the fires on the breeding population size is not yet known as the effects of the fire will likely be felt in subsequent years. During the non-breeding season, P. madeira dispersed far from their colony, migrating either to the Cape Verde region, further south to equatorial waters in the central Atlantic, or to the Brazil Current (Zino et al. 2011; Ramos et al. 2016).
It breeds in burrows on well-vegetated ledges at c.1,600 m. Birds return to their breeding grounds in late March or early April. A single egg is laid mid-May to early June, and young fledge in late September or early October. Breeding success has apparently improved since the 1980s, with a total of 29 chicks fledged in 2004 (Menezes 2004). Its diet probably consists of small squid and fish.
Following the removal of all livestock from the breeding areas, the ecosystem had been recovering well prior to the 2010 fire, although breeding only occurs on ledges that were never accessible to grazing animals (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). The fire in 2010 (see Zino and Biscoito 2011) highlights the vulnerability of the species to such events, since it breeds on only six ledges at one location, in two main areas 2 km apart (F.Zino in litt. 2016). As well as having a catastrophic impact on the survival of the year's fledglings and some adults, fires also increase soil erosion and make the habitat more barren, making the chicks more vulnerable to predation (P. Oliveira in litt. 2010). Currently, the main threats are predation of eggs and chicks by introduced black rats Rattus rattus and of nesting adults by feral cats Felis catus. The increasing number of visitors at night may also cause disturbance to breeding birds, although this is being carefully monitored by the relevant authorities (D. Menezes and P. Oliveira in litt. 2007). Shepherds formerly collected juveniles for food, and egg-collectors have raided nest-burrows in the past (Zino, P.A. & Zino, F. 1986).
Conservation Actions Underway
The species is protected under Portuguese law. The breeding sites have been designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU's Wild Birds Directive and lie within the Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza . A European action plan was published in 1996 and its implementation reviewed in 2010 (Barov and Derhé 2011). Successful predator control and research has been carried out since 1986 by the Freira Conservation Project and the Parque Natural da Madeira, which has led to increases in the productivity of this species (Zino et al. 2001, Carlile et al. 2003). This programme was expanded in 2001 with additional funding provided by a multidisciplinary European Union LIFE project, which also enabled the purchase of c.300 ha of land around the main breeding site (Menezes and Oliveira 2003, Unwin 2004). A project on the identification of marine IBAs in Portugal may allow the species to be studied at sea (I. Ramirez in litt. 2005). Over 2007-2010, dataloggers were attached to 14 breeding birds to determine the distribution of the birds at sea and seasonal changes in distribution from the breeding to non-breeding season (Zino et al. 2011; Ramos et al. 2016). The Parque Natural da Madeira and SPEA have been monitoring the colony intensively since the 2010 fire and have developed an action plan for the breeding colony which includes immediate emergency measures to mitigate the consequences of the fire along with more long-term activities. As part of the emergency measures following the fires, anti-erosion coconut mesh was installed on the breeding ledges to protect the soil in some of the most critical places and c.83 natural nests were restored, while 60 new artificial nests were built. A protective cordon was also built around the known breeding areas, with cat traps and bait boxes (Zino 1992; BirdLife International 2012, D. Menezes in litt. 2012).
33 cm. Medium-sized, grey and white gadfly petrel. Grey upperparts with dark cap and dark M across wings. White underparts except for indistinct pale grey half-collar across upper breast. Predominantly dark grey-brown underwing. Similar spp. Fea's Petrel P. feae is virtually identical, but slightly larger with longer, thicker bill and longer wings. Voice Wails and moans at colony. Silent at sea.
Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Moreno, R., Peet, N., Pople, R.
Ratcliffe, N., Zino, F., Menezes, D., Oliveira, P., Biscoito, M., Ramírez, I.
BirdLife International (2018) Species factsheet: Pterodroma madeira. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/11/2018. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2018) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/11/2018.