The New Zealand storm petrel, thought to be extinct for more than 150 years, has been seen in the Hauraki Gulf and off the Coromandel Peninsula. According to newspaper reports, one of the birds was seen in January and last month (November, 2003) two British ornithologists saw a flock of up to 20 of the birds near Little Barrier Island.
“Off New Zealand you expect to see two other species, the black-bellied and the white-faced storm petrel. But the bird we saw is really distinctive and different. The underparts are white with a black streak, and the feet project further back than the tail.” The ornithologists think the petrels breed on Little and Great Barrier Islands, where there was a sizeable rat population until recent control measures have seen the numbers decline.
Scientific confirmation of the return of the petrel is still awaited. The rare birds committee of the New Zealand Ornithological Society will have to be satisfied the bird, just 20cm long and last seen in 1850, is not a colour variation of a similar species.
The ornithologist, the late W.R.B.Oliver says this storm petrel was first collected off Banks Penisular in 1829 by the Astrolabe Expedition. This specimen is in the Paris Museum. A second specimen was procured in the neighbourhood of Banks Penisular by a Mr. G. Garrick who presented it to the British Museum. A third, also from Banks Peninsular, is in the Paris Museum. However, in Notornis, Volume 51, Part 1, March 2004, it is contested that the two specimens from the Astrolabe were collected off the East Cape rather than Banks Peninsular.
As reported in the local newspapers, September 25, 2011, DNA from birds caught in the Hauraki Gulf has just been matched to tissue fragments of the "extinct" species, sent from museums in England and France. So last month, eight years after the bird was first spotted near the Mercury Islands, this line appeared in an academic article: "We can therefore confirm that the previously presumed-extinct New Zealand storm-petrel has indeed been rediscovered."
Other common names: —
Mother Carey's Chickens, Little Peters, Jesus bird
Adult. Tail doubly emarginate. Head, neck, breast and upper surface sooty black, darkest on the head, the upper tail coverts white. Chin white mottled with sooty black ; under surface from the breast downwards white streaked with sooty brown; axillaries and greater wing coverts whitish. Bill and feet black. Iris brown. Measurements of the three species is as follows: Bill 12.5, 12.7, 12.5. Wing 151.5, 147, 148. Tail 64.2, 56.6, 58. Tarsus 35, 35.3, 35.1. Mid toe 27.2, 27.6, 27.2.
Where to find: —
Near Little Barrier Island.
Credit for the photograph: —
as on image
Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Page date & version: —
Thursday, 29 May 2014; ver2009v1