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Magenta Petrel Pterodroma magentae
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This species qualifies as Critically Endangered as it has undergone an extremely rapid historical decline over three generations. The on-going declines appear to have ceased and the population is slowly recovering thanks to intensive conservation work, which may lead to the downlisting of this species in the future.

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.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

38 cm. Medium-sized, dark brownish-grey and white petrel. Mostly uniform brownish-grey head, neck, upper breast, upperparts, upperwing, tail. White lower breast, belly, undertail. Brown underwing, paler under primaries. Black bill. Pink legs. Feet pink proximally, black distally. Similar spp. Phoenix Petrel P. alba is smaller, more brown. Atlantic Petrel P. incerta is bulkier with brown undertail. Voice Calls or-wik, si, si, si and orr.

Distribution and population
Pterodroma magentae was rediscovered in 1978 in the south-west corner of Chatham Island, New Zealand, 111 years after it was first collected at sea (Crockett 1994). Its prevalence in Moriori middens suggests it was once common and has undergone a massive historical decline (Imber et al. 2005). In 1994, only four breeding pairs were known, although it was suspected that others remained undetected, and that the population was still declining at this time. In 2004, surveys indicated a population of 120 individuals, including 15 breeding pairs (Hilhorst 2000, Brooke 2004, G. Taylor in litt. 2005). Just 16 chicks were known to have fledged from 1987-1988 to 2000 (Taylor 2000), but in 2002, a total of seven chicks were fledged (M. Ogle in litt. 2002). By 2006, there were 35 active burrows, an estimated 25 breeding pairs, and 11 known chicks, taking the total number of chicks fledged since 1987 to 63 (Stephenson 2006b). A total of 17 pairs are believed to have laid in the 2009/2010 breeding season (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010). Between 2007 and 2011, a total of 59 chicks were successfully moved from the Tuku Nature Reserve in the south of Chatham Island to the nearby Sweetwater Conservation Covenant, where they all successfully fledged (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010). Inshore waters (1-2 km offshore from the colony) around Otawae Point are thought to be important for non-breeders visiting the colony and during courtship at night (Imber et al. 2005). Its range at sea is known to extend across the entire South Pacific Ocean from the Tasman Sea to South America, based on recent tracking results using geolocators in 2008/2009 and 2010/2011 (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). During the breeding season, birds feed mainly south and south-east of the Chatham Islands; they then disperse widely during the non-breeding season, ranging from Tasman Sea to the west coast of South America (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). 

Population justification
In 2012, the total population was estimated to number around 150-200 individuals, including 80-100 mature individuals (G. Taylor in litt. 2012).

Trend justification
Although intensive conservation management (predator control in particular), appears to have allowed the population to increase slowly since the late 1990s, the species has undergone a severe decline over the last century, in excess of 80% over the last 60 years (three generations).

It breeds in a fragmented colony under dense forest (Heather and Robertson 1997), 4-6 km inland. Burrows are up to 5 m long and breeding takes place from September to May (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010). Males occupy burrows for 1-3 years before pair formation and breeding; non-breeding females rarely visit the colony (Imber et al. 2005). Its diet is not well known, but includes squid (Heather and Robertson 1997) and fish (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). Recent ringing returns show that males return to the colony aged 3-10 years, females at 4-9 years, and first breeding is attempted at around five years of age (Department of Conservation 1999, Imber et al. 2005, G. Taylor in litt. 2012). The pairs form a life-long bond, one egg is laid per year, incubated by both parents, and fledging chicks climb trees from which they launch themselves to fly out to sea (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010).

Introduced species (particularly three rat species, pigs, cats, Weka, possums, hedgehogs and stray dogs [Johnston et al. 2003, Imber et al. 2005, Carboneras et al. 2014]) take eggs, chicks and adults, or compete for, destroy or cause the desertion of burrows. Flooding of burrows may also lower breeding success (Taylor 2000). Loss of bush forest is attributed to grazing by cattle, sheep and Brush-tailed Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) (Carboneras et al. 2014). Loss of forest habitat from accidental fire represents a threat (Aikman et al. 2001). Historically, the pastoralisation of Chatham Island probably caused the final destruction of the major colonies. Prior to 1900, local Moriori and Maori caught thousands of chicks for food (Crockett 1994, Stephenson 2006b). Molecular analysis has found that, while the sex-ratio is approximately even in petrel chicks and breeding adults caught on the ground, 95% of non-breeding adults are male. This suggests that low population levels may be causing unpaired male birds difficulty in attracting a mate, as their calls are too spread out to attract the infrequent females which pass by (Lawrence et al. 2008a). There are no at-sea threats that are known to be seriously and imminently impacting this species (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). Some closely related species have been caught on long-lines, thus there may be impacts on this species. Longer term climate change impacts on oceans, such as acidification, may also become a threat. Its highly dispersed non-breeding movements lower risks to the species of localised threats such as oil spills (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). A proposed seabed mining operation on the Chatham Bank represented a potential threat to the species (Anderson 2014), however the application was rejected in February 2015 (Morton 2015).

Conservation Actions Underway
Ten years of intensive searching led to its rediscovery in 1978, but no burrows were found (Crockett 1994). In 1987, radio-transmitters attached to the tail-feathers of birds finally led to the discovery of three burrows (Imber et al. 1994b), and trapping for predators was immediately commenced (Imber et al. 1994a). On-going searches located only three more burrows, but in 1999, at least 17 new burrows were discovered (Taylor 2000). Breeding areas have been protected by the Tuku Nature Reserve (Stephenson 2006a). Predator control was intensified in 1996 (Imber et al. 2005). All burrows are monitored for breeding attempts (Imber et al. 1994a, Department of Conservation 1999) and sometimes infra-red cameras are deployed at each nest to monitor activity and identify predators (Johnston et al. 2003). Since 2007, burrows have been monitored using automated PIT-tag readers, and all birds have been fitted with PIT-tags (Taylor et al. in press). Egg- and chick-rearing trials have been undertaken on the closely-related Grey-faced Petrel P. macroptera, and its diet analysed, to develop methods for captive rearing of P. magentae (Taylor 2000).

The Chatham Island Taiko Trust was established in 1998 to provide legal status to the continuing work (Department of Conservation 2007), and has since provided substantial funding to much of the conservation work focussed on this species (M. Bell in litt. 2012). In 2006, a 3-ha safe colony with predator-proof fence, wooden burrows, and playback sound system was established at the Sweetwater Secure Breeding Site, and chicks have been transferred here prior to fledging to form a new colony (Taylor 2000, Stephenson 2006b). Eight chicks were successfully moved and fledged here in April-May 2007, as were a further 13 in 2008 and 13 in 2009 (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010). Over five summers, 57 chicks were transferred from Tuku Nature Reserve to Sweetwater (Chapman 2014). A chick that fledged in 2007 returned to Sweetwater in 2010, this was followed by another chick in 2011 and 12 chicks in 2012. The first two cohorts of chick transfers had a survival rate of approximately 60% (considerably higher than the 20-30% natural recruitment rate [Chapman 2014]). Birds bred at Sweetwater in 2013, with two eggs laid (Chapman 2014). The 1,200-hectare South Chatham Covenant, adjacent to the Tuku Nature Reserve and containing one known cluster of burrows, is now fenced, and is currently being surveyed to determine its actual area: as at Sweetwater ownership will remain with the existing landowners but the Covenant will ensure protection in perpetuity (C. Miskelly in litt. 2008, 2010). The 2011 target is to establish a self-sustaining population of at least 250 individuals. Birds have been fitted with geolocators since 2008/2009 (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). A recent conservation action has been to catch birds through the use of spotlights to locate additional burrows and attempting to introduce known females to burrow clusters that contain unpaired males (G. Taylor in litt. 2012). Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) readers are used at Sweetwater to monitor breeding burrows (Chapman 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Continue ground searches and telemetry to locate further burrows, as well as night surveys for prospecting birds and to collect data on survival. Continue to use study holes at all active nest burrows to enable active intervention if chicks are undernourished or abandoned. Continue sustained predator and herbivore control. Continue to study the species's ecology, including its at-sea distribution. Consider maintenance of genetic diversity when planning future conservation actions (Lawrence et al. 2008b). Continue to translocate chicks to Sweetwater Conservation Covenant to build up secure population (M. Bell in litt. 2012).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Aikman, H.; Davis, A.; Miskelly, C.; O'Connor, S.; Taylor, G. 2001. Chatham Islands threatened birds: recovery and management plans. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Anderson, P. 2014. Tāiko at risk from seabed mining. Forest and Bird 354: 8-9.

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

Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. and Kirwan, G.M. 2014. Magenta Petrel (Pterodroma magentae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Chapman, S. 2014. Successful translocation of petrels in the Chatham Islands. Sea Swallow 63: 4-9.

Crockett, D. E. 1994. Rediscovery of Chatham Island Taiko Pterodoma magentae. Notornis 41(Supplement): 49-60.

Department of Conservation. 1999. Hopes soar for world's rarest seabird.

Department of Conservation. 2007. A World first: Chatham Island Taiko fledge from predator-proof site.

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Hilhorst, M. 2000. Reborn petrel on the up. BBC Wildlife 18: 59.

Imber, M. J.; Crockett, D. E.; Gordon, A. H.; Best, H. A.; Douglas, M. E.; Cotter, R. N. 1994. Finding the burrows of Chatham Island Taiko Pterodoma magentae by radio telemetry. Notornis 41(Supplement): 69-96.

Imber, M. J.; Jolly, J. N.; Brooke, M. De L. 1995. Food of three sympatric gadfly petrels (Pterodroma spp.) breeding on the Pitcairn Islands. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 56: 233-240.

Imber, M.J.; Taylor, G. A.; Tennyson, A.J.D.; Aikman, H. A.; Scofield, R. P.; Ballantyne, J.; Crockett, D.E. 2005. Non-breeding behaviour of Magenta Petrels Pterodroma magentae at Chatham Island, New Zealand. Ibis 147: 758-763.

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

Johnson, F.R., McNaughton, E.J., Shelley, C.D. and Blumstein, D.T. 2003. Mechanisms of heterospecific recognition in avian mobbing calls. Australian Journal of Zoology 51(6): 577-585.

Lawrence, H. A.; Millar, C. D.; Taylor, G. A.; Macdonald, L. D.; Lambert, D. M. 2008. Excess of unpaired males in one of the world's most endangered seabirds, the Chatham Island Taiko Pterodroma magentae. Journal of Avian Biology 39(3): 359-363.

Lawrence, H. A.; Taylor, G. A.; Millar, C. D.; Lambert, D. M. 2008. High mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity in one of the world's most endangered seabirds, the Chatham Island Taiko (Pterodroma magentae). Conservation Genetics 9(5): 1293-1301.

Morton, J. 2015. EPA rejects second seabed mining bid. NZ Herald Available at: (Accessed: 23/07/2015).

Stephenson, B. 2006. Good news for Taiko. Forest and Bird 319: 15.

Stephenson, B. 2006. Petrel head. Forest and Bird: 32-33.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

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

New Zealand Govt - Dept of Conservation - Recovery Plan

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

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Lascelles, B., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Bell, M., Lawrence, H., Miskelly, C., Ogle, M. & Taylor, G.A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pterodroma magentae. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Magenta petrel (Pterodroma magentae) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Procellariidae (Petrels, Shearwaters)
Species name author (Giglioli & Salvadori, 1869)
Population size 80-100 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,850,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species