Africa
28 Apr 2021

Get into a Cape Verde Petrel’s nest!

Watch live as a fluffy little Cape Verde Petrel chick grows up and lives in the safety of its nest until it flies away.

A pair of Cape Verde Petrels on in Fogo Island, Cabo Verde © Jacob Gonzalez Solis
A pair of Cape Verde Petrels on in Fogo Island, Cabo Verde © Jacob Gonzalez Solis
By Elena Serra Sánchez

Cape Verde Petrel Pterodroma feae chicks spend the first days of their life sheltered in rock crevices on the Cape Verde Islands off the north-west coast of Africa. For five months, they wait patiently for nightfall when their parents return to the nest and serve them a succulent dinner, mainly consisting of small squid and fish. With an estimated population of 1000-2000 individuals, the species is Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Now, thanks to the great efforts of Associação Projecto Vitó, the Barcelona University and MiraNatura, we can take a peek into a Cape Verde Petrel's nest in Fogo Natural Park and watch in real time as the chick feeds, grows and eventually leaves the nest as a fully-fledged adult.

The Cape Verde Petrel, or Gongon Petrel – as it is known by locals  is a seabird endemic to Cabo Verde, meaning it does not reproduce anywhere else in the world. This bird species is a fast and agile flier that typically swoop in slanting arcs during moderately windy conditions. It spends most of its life on oceanic waters, venturing onto land only to breed between September and June.

Cape Verde Petrels are monogamous, with male and female pairs bonding for life. The species lays only one egg per year and both males and females share incubation duties, which last approximately 50 days. After hatching, usually between late February and early March, the parents visits the nest at night to feed the young bird until it is ready to set out to sea, which happens between May and June.

Despite being an emblematic species in Cabo Verde, little is known about this petrel. This is mainly due to its nocturnal nature, coming onto land only at night, and breeding behaviour. The petrel breeds in hidden burrows on high-altitude, rugged mountains across the Santo Antão, Fogo, São Nicolau and Santiago islands. However, we do know that their populations have been severely decimated over the past centuries. Because these petrels breed in areas also used by rural communities, they are faced by several threats, such as cat and rat predation, egg harvesting, habitat loss and light pollution. At sea they are threatened by bycatch in fishing gear, habitat alteration, and marine pollution.

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A fluffy Cape Verde Petrel chick in the comfort of its rocky nest © Jacob Gonzalez Solís

Coordinated by BirdLife International, the Cabo Verde Seabird Project aims to determine the main foraging areas of this species, size and viability of their populations, the main threats on each island and the most suitable conservation measures to protect this unique seabird. To achieve this, one critical activity is identifying the nesting areas of the species. A lot of effort has been placed on locating the Cape Verde petrel's maximum number of burrows.

“Searching for Cape Verde Petrel nests is not an easy task due to their location in places that are difficult to access,” highlights Herculano Andrade Dinis, Executive Director at Associação Projecto Vitó. Still, the researchers from this local organization, together with those from University of Barcelona, managed to identify more than 100 nests in 2020. “The search for nests is based on questionnaires that were carried out on all the islands where the species reproduces, working in close partnership with farmers and communities who provide us useful information on the courtship and breeding areas of this bird. In addition, we have the priceless support of Africa, a female sniffer dog trained to find Cape Verde Petrel nests,” explains Dinis.

Installed by MiraNatura, the Gongon Petrel Livecam aims to give everyone, especially the local communities of Cape Verde, a glimpse into the life of this endemic and emblematic species. “We believe that the Livecam will enable people to begin to appreciate seabirds, engage in promotional activities and support conservation work. We are preparing to disseminate this activity to primary and secondary schools,” concludes Dinis.

In addition, all the images captured will also serve to understand the reproductive biology of the Cape Verde Petrel and the interactions that occur in the nests, serving as a basis for the development of future studies.

 

We invite you to take check the Gongon Petrel Livecam and watch on live the daily life of a Cape Verde Petrel chick and follow it as it grows up until it leaves the nest!

Searching for Cape Verde Petrel nests it is not an easy task due to their inaccessible location © Jacob Gonzalez Solís


The Project Conservation of Seabird in Cabo Verde is funded by MAVA Foundation, coordinated by BirdLife International and developed thanks to the collaboration between several local and international NGOs and institutions (Direção Nacional do Ambiente de Cabo Verde, Biosfera, SPEA, Projecto Vitó, Projeto Biodiversidade, Fundação Maio Biodiversidade, BIOS.CV, INIDA, Amigos do Calhau, Lantuna, and Cabo Verde, Coimbra and Barcelona universities).