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Mascarene Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrima
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This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it is assumed to have an extremely small breeding population and to be undergoing a continuing decline owing to predation and light-induced mortality. Effective conservation measures are urgently needed.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Pterodroma aterrima Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Pterodroma aterrima Collar and Andrew (1988), Pterodroma aterrima Collar et al. (1994), Pterodroma aterrima Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993)

36 cm. Medium-sized, dark gadfly petrel. Dark chocolate-brown with slightly paler chin, upper throat and underwing. Black bill. Pink tarsi. Black feet, webs with pale patch towards base of inner web. Similar spp. Like Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulwerii and Jouanin's Petrel B. fallax but more robust, smaller with heavier bill, shorter tail and lacking wing-bar. Dark phase of Trindade Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana has longer wings. Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera has a larger wingspan with a longer, more pointed 'hand' it is stockier in appearance with a large, rounder head and broader rear (Shirihai et al. 2014).

Distribution and population
The species is known from Réunion (to France), by subfossil remains on Rodrigues (Mauritius) and in 2002 a single roadkill specimen in Black Gorges National Park, Mauritius (Tatayah et al. 2011). The few records include four specimens collected in the 19th century, two birds found dead in the 1970s, and rare observations of birds in the waters south of Réunion since 1964. Recently, four more individuals, two of which died, were found attracted to urban lights of Réunion towns (Le Corre et al. 2002). Five breeding sites are known (9-10 pairs in total, including one loose colony with four pairs), all restricted to a small area which is unlikely to harbour more than c. 40 breeding burrows in total (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2005). Calls have been heard during the breeding season (austral summer) on cliffs at 1,000 m and fledglings have been caught in March (Tatayah et al. 2011). It is possible that they nest in montane parts of the Black River Gorges, as the habitat is similar to that of their suspected nesting areas on Réunion (Tatayah et al. 2011). Data collected at sea during the period 1978-1995 suggested a population of c.1,000 individuals (Attie et al. 1997) with perhaps 45-400 pairs (Brooke 2004), although below 100 pairs is probably more likely (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999) and may only be a few dozen pairs (Tatayah et al. 2011). A recent survey of the known breeding area on Réunion found ten fledglings, indicating that the species continues to breed successfully on the island (M. Riethmuller in litt. 2011).

Population justification
From their at-sea counts, Attie et al. (1997) suggest that the population may be around 1,000 individuals, implying 250 (45-400) breeding pairs, although 50-100 pairs was considered more likely (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999), i.e. 100-200 mature individuals. However, recent estimates indicate that the breeding population may be just a few dozen pairs.

Trend justification
Suspected to be declining owing to predation and light-induced mortality.

All known breeding sites are on cliffs, presumably in heathy vegetation. Recent information confirms austral summer breeding, with incubation around December, and fledging between February and March (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999).They are thought to return to nest sites nocturnally to reduce chances of predation (Tatayah et al. 2011). The species feeds at the surface (Shirihai et al. 2014).

Like the threatened Barau's Petrel Pterodroma baraui (also endemic to Réunion), the main threats are likely to be predation by feral cats and rats (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999), the Lesser Indian Mongoose Herpestes javanicus (Tatayah et al. 2011) and urban light-induced mortality which mainly affects inexperienced juveniles. Thirty birds have been found stranded apparently after being attracted by light between 1996 and 2011; 28 were released successfully and two died (Le Corre 1999, Le Corre et al. 1999, M. Le Corre in litt. 1999, Le Corre et al 2003, M. Riethmuller in litt. 2011). Widespread light pollution such as street lamps and sport installations are responsible for the greatest majority of light-induced petrel mortality on Réunion (Le Corre et al. 2002, Le Corre et al. 2003); the roadkill specimen on Mauritius is further evidence of the problem (Tatayah et al. 2011). Light-induced mortality of the juveniles of this rare petrel is likely to affect the long-term population dynamics but their longevity will cause a lag before real population declines are identified (Le Corre et al. 2002). The feeding behaviour of the species makes it vulnerable to fishing activities (Shirihai et al. 2014). Pesticide residues may also pose a threat (Carboneras et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions Underway
Since 1996, there has been a campaign to quantify urban light-induced mortality and to rescue as many birds as possible (Le Corre 1999, Le Corre et al. 1999, Le Corre et al. 2002). The rescues have been successful, with over 90% of the petrels (of various species) found on Réunion being released again (Le Corre et al. 2002). From 1996-2002, a public appeal aimed at rescuing downed birds produced eight petrels, of which seven were banded and released (Le Corre et al. 2003). One ringed individual Mascarene Petrel released after being rescued has been resighted alive several years later (M. Riethmuller in litt. 2011). La Société d'études Ornithologiques de la Réunion is working in partnership with EDF Réunion to reduce light pollution on Réunion (Bizien 2013). Surveys have identified the location and charateristics of the breeding area, however, no concerted attempts have been made to assess the impact of introduced predators and predator control has not been trialled (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2005, M. Reithmuller in litt. 2011). A series of expeditions to remove rats from around one of the last breeding colonies of this species on Réunion was launched in August and September 2014 (Jan and Fouillot 2014). Cat control measures have also been introduced around colonies. A LIFE-funded project from 2014 to 2020 aims to limit the decline of Mascarene and Barau's Petrels through techniques including: the development of appropriate conservation actions, predator control in remote areas, awareness-raising, and improving ecological knowledge of these species (Hoarau 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop an action plan for known breeding sites, and execute predator trapping, legal protection and monitoring of at least one or two burrows (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999). Continue rescue programme of young birds attracted by lights (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999, Le Corre et al. 2002). Investigate light-reduction programmes either through light-shielding or light-restriction during the fledgling period (Le Corre et al. 2002). Continue to search for further breeding grounds and, once found, evaluate population numbers, major threats and conservation action required (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999, Le Corre et al. 2002). Once suitable areas are free of predators, Mascarene Petrel calls should be broadcast throughout the night during the breeding season to encourage individuals to recolonise these sites (Jan and Fouillet 2014).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Attié, C.; Stahl, J. C.; Bretagnolle, V. 1997. New data on the endangered Mascarene Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrima: a third twentieth century specimen and distribution. Colonial Waterbirds 20.3: 406-412.

Bizien, C. 2013. Le label "Pétrel protégé" : une solution énergétique qui fait rimer économie d'énergie et protection de l'environnement. L'Oiseau 111: 23.

Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. 2014. Mascarene Petrel (Pseudobulweria aterrima). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (ed.), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Hoarau, M. 2014. LIFE+ PETRELS - Halting the decline of endemic Petrels from Reunion Island: demonstration of large-scale innovative conservation actions. Available at: (Accessed: 08/06/2015).

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Jan, F. and Fouillet, D. 2014. 24 heures sur Malabar, pour aider le Pétrel noir! Le Chakouat 45: 12-15.

Le Corre, M.; Ghestemme, T.; Salamolard, M.; Couzi, F. X. 2003. Rescue of the Mascarene Petrel, a critically endangered seabird of Réunion Island, Indian Ocean. Condor 105: 387-391.

Le Corre, M.; Ollivier, A.; Ribes, S.; Jouventin, P. 2002. Light-induced mortality of petrels: a 4-year study from Réunion Island (Indian Ocean). Biological Conservation 105: 93-102.

Le Corre, M.; Viviès, Y.-M. D.; Ribes, S. 1999. Les pétrels de La Réunion en danger. L'Oiseau Magazine 54: 26-27.

Shirihai, H., Pym, T., San Román, M. and Bretagnolle, V. 2014. The Critically Endangered Mascarene Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrima: identification and behaviour at sea, historical discovery of breeding sites, and breeding ecology on Réunion, Indian Ocean. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 134(3): 194-223.

Tatayah, R. V.; Jones, C. G.; Birch, D.; Salamolard, M. 2011. First record of Réunion Black Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrima on Mauritius. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 131(1): 64-66.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Lascelles, B., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Martin, R & Ashpole, J

Bretagnolle, V., Le Corre, M. & Riethmuller, M.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pseudobulweria aterrima. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Procellariidae (Petrels, Shearwaters)
Species name author (Bonaparte, 1857)
Population size 100-200 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 74,500 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species