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White-winged Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera

This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small breeding range and a small number of breeding locations, and may be declining overall owing to predation by introduced mammals. Although the Australian breeding population is currently increasing through conservation action, the New Caledonian population is undoubtedly in decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. 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.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

30 cm Small, black-capped gadfly petrel. White forehead merging into dark brownish-grey cap and sides of cheeks. Grey upperparts with strong, dark "M" across wings and dark tail tip. Some birds show palepatch on inner primaries of upperwing. White underparts. White underwing with dark tip and trailing edge. Dark leading edge extends to well-defined black mark leading towards body from carpal joint. Similar spp. Broader dark leading margin to underwing than other "Cookilaria" species. Black-winged Petrel P. nigripennis has a much paler grey head. Collared Petrel P. brevipes has variably complete breast-band, decidedly bolder black marking along leading edge of wing, and is sometimes almost entirely dark ventrally.

Distribution and population
Pterodroma leucoptera mainly breeds in Australia and New Caledonia (to France). There is also a small colony on Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000). In Australia, leucoptera breeds on Cabbage Tree (0.3 km2) and adjacent Boondelbah (0.1 km2) Islands. It has also been recently found to breed on at least three sites on Broughton Island (1.3 km2) and Little Broughton Island (0.3 km2), 12 km northeast of Cabbage Tree (Carlile et al. in press). On Cabbage Tree, population estimates indicated a decline from 2,004 birds in 1970 to 1,157 in 1993 (Priddel and Carlile 1997b). However, conservation action undertaken since 1993 has seen the number of nesting pairs increase annually from fewer than 250 to c.1,025 in 2001, and numbers appear to be currently stable between 800-1000 pairs (Priddel and Carlile 2007, 2009). Following a translocation programme in 1999, approximately 50 pairs breed on Boondelbah (Priddel et al. 2006, D. Priddel in litt. 2012). In New Caledonia, three main breeding sites of caledonica of 1,000-2,000 pairs are known between Mts Dzumac and Poya, at 350-650 m (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Based on sightings at sea off New Caledonia, there may be c.1,000-10,000 pairs in total, although more colonies may lie undiscovered in isolated massifs on New Caledonia (Meeth and Meeth 1983, Bretagnolle and Thomas 1990, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, Bretagnolle in Brooke 2004, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Petrels known historically from Vanuatu (possibly still extant) may be this species (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000), or an undescribed taxon (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Australian birds presumably disperse with New Caledonian birds to the Tasman Sea and the far east Pacific (Imber and Jenkins 1981, Meeth and Meeth 1983, Bretagnolle and Thomas 1990, Marchant and Higgins 1990). Three individuals have been sighted over the waters around Fiji (T. Pyn in litt. 2008), and four around the Windward Islands (Champeau 2010). There is also some evidence pointing to the presence of small colonies on Tahiti (Champeau 2010). Non-breeders forage in the Southern Ocean as far south as the Antarctic coast (D. Priddel in litt. 2012). Recent tracking studies have revealed that during the non-breeding season, both subspecies migrate across the Pacific, but use different migration routes and over-winter in different regions of the ocean; leucoptera in the central Pacific south of Hawaii, and caledonia in the Eastern Pacific west of Ecuador (D. Priddel in litt. 2012).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number 3,000-21,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,000-14,000 mature individuals (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000; Garnet and Crowley 2000, Priddel and Carlile 2007).

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends in caledonica, and although leucoptera is now stable the species is suspected to be declining overall, owing mainly to predation of nesting adults and chicks.

It breeds in small, loose colonies of 10-50 pairs in burrows on steep, vegetated slopes on New Caledonia between 350 and 650 m, and among rocks and debris of cabbage tree palm Livistona australis in Australia (Priddel and Carlile 1997a,b; V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, 2000, Bretagnolle in Brooke 2004). During breeding, it feeds mainly cephalopods, fish and crustaceans (McGee et al. submitted), taken in the Tasman Sea and in the waters off southern Australia (D. Priddel in litt. 2012). Banded adult birds have lived to more than 40 years of age (D. Priddel in litt. 2012).

The Cabbage Tree population declined as a result of predation by Pied Currawong Strepera graculina and Australian Raven Corvus coronoides, and entanglement in birdlime tree Pisonia umbellifera fruit (Priddel and Carlile 2007). Introduced rabbits have probably changed the island's vegetation to favour increased populations of S. graculina and Pisonia (Priddel and Carlile 1997b), as well as making the birds more susceptible to predation. On New Caledonia, introduced pigs excavate chicks from burrows (F. Hannecart in litt. 1999), and cats are another potential threat. Black rats Rattus rattus have been found predating both eggs and adults and this may constitute a major threat: a previously rat-free colony declined from 125-250 pairs in 2002 to perhaps fewer than 20 nests in 2005 after the invasion of rats (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Tens of birds probably are accidentally killed annually between January and April around Noumea when they are attracted to lights, continuing urbanisation is likely to make this situation worse (SCO in litt. 2007). In 1995, egg abandonment on Cabbage Tree suggested unidentified marine threats, although it coincided with an Australia-wide die-off of pilchards Sadinops sagax neopilchardus (Priddel and Carlile 1997b, Carlile et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions Underway
On Cabbage Tree, Pisonia is being removed, rabbits have been extirpated (Priddel et al. 2000), S. graculina and C. coronoides are controlled, and other predators are monitored (Carlile et al. 2003, Priddel and Carlile 2009). As a result breeding success has increased from 20% to 50% (Priddel and Carlile 2007). Two hundred fledglings have been translocated from Cabbage Tree to Boondelbah where a small colony is now established (Priddle et al. 2006). In New Caledonia SCO have implemented an annual campaign to save petrels which are attracted to lights (SCO in litt. 2007). In 2007, nine birds were found and five released alive, but numbers must be higher and SCO hopes to make this campaign a major event (SCO in litt. 2007). In New Caledonia, the local government previously funded a rat control program near a large breeding colony (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). Poison was set in October each year, before the petrels arrive and before the wet season (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). This action has since been discontinued (N. Carlile in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey potential breeding areas in New Caledonia. Clarify its taxonomy. Assess breeding success and predation levels. Control introduced mammals. Monitor Australian populations biennially. In New Caledonia, study the impact of light pollution (and urbanisation) on the species. Increase the scope of the campaigns to save birds attracted to lights in the Noumea area.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Bretagnolle, V.; Thomas, T. 1990. Seabird distribution between Tasmania and Adélie Land (Antarctica), and comparison with nearby Antarctic sectors. Emu 90: 97-107.

Brooke, M. De L. 2004. Albatrosses and petrels across the world. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Carlile, N.; Priddel, D.; Zino, F.; Natavidad, C.; Wingate, D. B. 2003. A review of four successful recovery programmes for threatened sub-tropical petrels. Marine Ornithology 31: 185-192.

Champeau, J. 2010. Pétrel de Gould Pterodroma leucoptera ou Pétrel à collier Pterodroma brevipes. Te Manu: 2-3.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Imber, M. J.; Jenkins, J. A. F. 1981. The New Caledonian Petrel. Notornis 28: 149-160.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Meeth, P.; Meeth, K. 1983. Seabird observations from six Pacific ocean crossings. Sea Swallow 32: 58-65.

Priddel, D. 2008. Trends in threatened species: Gould's Petrel. Wingspan 18(4 Suppl): 30.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N. 1997. Boondelbah Island confirmed as a second breeding locality for Gould's Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera. Emu 97: 245-247.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N. 1997. Conservation of the endangered Gould's Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera. Pacific Conservation Biology 3(4): 322-329.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N. 2007. Population size and breeding success of Gould's Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera on Cabbage Tree Island, New South Wales: 1996-97 to 2005-06. Corella 31(3/4): 79-82.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N. 2009. Key elements in achieving a successful recovery programme: A discussion illustrated by the Gould's Petrel case study. Ecological Management and Restoration 10: S97-S102.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N.; Wheeler, R. 2000. Eradication of European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus from Cabbage Tree Island, NSW, Australia, to protect the breeding habitat of Gould's petrel Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera. Biological Conservation 94: 115-125.

Priddel, D.; Carlile, N.; Wheeler, R. 2006. Establishment of a new breeding colony of Gould's Petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera) through the creation of artificial nesting habitat and the translocation of nestlings. Biological Conservation 128: 553-563.

Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline for Pterodoma leucoptera leucoptera

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Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Benstead, P., Calvert, R., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J.

Bretagnolle, V., Carlile, N., Dutson, G., Hannecart, F., Priddel, D., Spaggiari, J., Tennyson, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Pterodroma leucoptera. Downloaded from on 27/12/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/12/2014.

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.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Gould's petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Procellariidae (Petrels, Shearwaters)
Species name author (Gould, 1844)
Population size 2000-14000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 49,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species