Zino's Petrel Pterodroma madeira


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. 

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 200 individuals, roughly equating to 160 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Prior to the fire in 2010, the breeding population was stable or increasing slightly (Barov and Derhé 2011); however, the increases in population estimates might likely be the result of increased survey effort (I. Ramírez in litt. 2005). It is too early to determine the effects of the fire in 2010 on the long-term trend of the species. However, despite only one juvenile surviving of the 38 chicks monitored in 2010, the numbers of fledging chicks in subsequent years has been encouraging.  

Distribution and population

This species breeds in the central mountain massif of Madeira, Portugal, though subfossil remains elsewhere in Madeira and on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo (Zino and 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. 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. Twenty-five young and three 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, which made 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 fire 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 disperses far from the 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.


A very severe fire in 2010 resulted in the near total loss of that year's breeding output, via direct mortality and subsequent predation of chicks, as well as the loss of a minimum of 6 adults (F. Zino in litt. 2016). Breeding productivity has been good in the years following the fire, with conservation efforts preventing a large fire in 2016 from reaching the colony (F. Zino in litt. 2016). This indicates that, with support and conservation resources, recovery can occur and significant population impacts avoided.

Cats represent a significant predation threat and are controlled by means of an active trapping program, however, despite work by many dedicated people, the impact of fires on the island has reduced the resources available for this (F. Zino in litt. 2016). Predation of eggs and chicks by introduced House Rats Rattus rattus is a known source of reproductive failure. Rats are prevented from accessing the colony via a bait cordon, however, the capacity to refresh this bait has been reduced due to recent fires with potentially severe consequences.

Despite the large number of visitors and limited resources for wardening within Zino’s Petrel’s range, very few impacts have been recorded from human impacts. Access at night is nominally strictly limited to reduce human impact, however, this is poorly monitored.

Conservation actions

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, GPS-loggers 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 a fire in 2010 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 fire, 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).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Investigate novel methods of controlling cats and continue control of rats. Exclude grazing stock from potential breeding areas. Continue research to determine the species's population status and distribution, such as searching for new breeding ledges. Monitor the known breeding population. Establish a management plan for the Parque Natural da Madeira. Control human access and disturbance to breeding sites. Assess the potential impact of the proposed radar station. Assess the impact of the fire in 2010 on the population size and trends.


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
Moreno, R., Peet, N., Pople, R., Stuart, A., Ekstrom, J., Capper, D., Calvert, R., Fjagesund, T., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Hermes, C., Martin, R.

Menezes, D., Ratcliffe, N., Biscoito, M., Ramírez, I., Oliveira, P., Zino, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Pterodroma madeira. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/04/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/04/2020.