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.
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)
Distribution and populationPseudobulweria aterrima
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.
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.Ecology
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.
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. 30 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). 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). 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). 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.
. Continue rescue programme of young birds attracted by lights (M. Le Corre in litt.
1999, Le Corre et al
. Investigate light-reduction programmes either through light-shielding or light-restriction during the fledgling period (Le Corre et al
. 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
Related state of the world's birds case studies
AttiÃ©, 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.
Brooke, M. De L. 2004. Albatrosses and petrels across the world. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Le Corre, M.; Ghestemme, T.; Salamolard, M.; Couzi, F. X. 2003. Rescue of the Mascarene Petrel, a critically endangered seabird of RÃ©union 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 RÃ©union Island (Indian Ocean). Biological Conservation 105: 93-102.
Le Corre, M.; ViviÃ¨s, Y.-M. D.; Ribes, S. 1999. Les pÃ©trels de La RÃ©union en danger. L'Oiseau Magazine 54: 26-27.
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
Bretagnolle, V., Le Corre, M., Riethmuller, M.
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Pseudobulweria aterrima. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/12/2014.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/12/2014.
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.
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