Bird Committee confirms Seychelles first Bulwer’s Petrel sighting

Bulwer's PetrelThe first record of Bulwer’s Petrel in the Seychelles has now been verified and authenticated. The sighting was made on June 15, 2009 by David Andrews, and Jennifer Love and Martyn Hammers on Cousin Island. The bird was later captured and ringed. Photographs, measurements and ring details were provided to the Seychelles Bird Records Committee for identification and authentication.

Bulwer's Petrel, (Bulweria bulwerii) an all dark pan-tropical species, breeds in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the Atlantic, it breeds in the Azores, Salvage Islands, Madeira, Desertas, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands. In theBulwer's Petrel Pacific it breeds on Taiwan, Fujian and islets off south-east China, the Bonin, Volcano and Ryuku Islands off Japan, Hawaii, Johnston Atoll, Phoenix Island and the Marquesas. The breeding season is from April to September. It then disperses to the Indian Ocean, mainly south of the Mascarenes, from December to early March. But a few do remain in the Indian ocean during the breeding season.

Bulwer’s petrel is an oceanic bird that only comes to land at night and during the breeding season. On land it prefers rocky islands or islets with little or no disturbance. On the breeding colonies the bird gives a low barking 'chuff' call, which repeated at varying speed and pitch, can be likened to a steam engine. It nests in holes and crevices on rocky slopes not far from the ocean, where it feeds on small fish on the surface. The bird found by Andrews was not breeding however.

This was not the first time a Petrel has been sighted on Cousin. During the same month Andrews and company also captured and ringed what is suspected to be a Herald's Petrel (Pterodroma arminjoniana). This has not been confirmed yet. In 2003 and 2004, a first ever recorded observation of a Kermadec Petrel (Pterodroma neglecta, intermediate phase) was made by Cas Eikenaar, a Seychelles Warbler researcher on Cousin. This record was confirmed by the Bird Committee and appears in the African Birder Club Bulletin. This same bird crash-landed on Cousin again on 24 November 2009 and was observed by Jovani Simeon, Chief Warden. It was gently picked up and proved to be already rung. Photographs were taken. It was thereafter put on a rock to recover from the crash landing and it flew off again.

Because of the similarities seen in the photos taken by Eikenaar on 29 August 2003 on Cousin  hill, the subsequent report in the African Birder Club Bulletin and its ring number, this bird was confirmed to be indeed the  2003 and 2004 visitor by the Bird Committee.

Before this, on the 18th November 2009, Jovani had seen two dark petrels on Cousin hill, with the first one in a nest, and the second flying around. He was able to photograph, measure and ring the first petrel. The records are with the committee.

"We hope that these petrels will start breeding on Cousin. We will keep monitoring their appearances." Says Jovani.

Bulwer's Petrel is listed as "Least Concern" on the 2009 IUCN Red List Category. See more information on its fact sheet on BirdLife's Data Zone

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