Crucial discovery of breeding ground of Critically Endangered New Zealand Storm-petrels25/02/2013 08:25:18 New Zealand Storm-petrel, thought extinct for 200 years, found breeding just 50 km from Auckland City
February 2013. Researchers are elated to find the sparrow-sized New Zealand Storm-petrel, thought extinct until 2003, is breeding on Little Barrier Island Hauturu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park near Auckland. The team of researchers is led by Chris Gaskin - Important Bird Area Programme Manager for Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) - and Dr Matt Rayner from the University of Auckland.
Not seen for 200 years
The team camped on the Poor Knights Islands, Mokohinau Islands and Little Barrier Island using radio receivers to zero in on the breeding site.
Dr Rayner says: "The site being monitored is very fragile and with birds at a delicate stage in their breeding cycle. We are using automated equipment for the most part and maintaining a hands-off approach, although team members visiting the vicinity have also been keeping watch."
"On Friday morning a bird was discovered on the ground, possibly having just left its burrow. At the same time team members detected another bird, this one most probably on a nest," said Chris Gaskin. "It's an amazing result for our enthusiastic and dedicated team."
Members of the research team will remain on the island over the coming weeks. Aerial surveys are also being used to try and establish the distribution and size of the population. The Hauraki Gulf Forum is about to publish a Hauraki Gulf seabird management strategy and research plan drawing on the work of Chris Gaskin and Dr Rayner and New Zealand and international collaborators.
Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, John Tregidga, said locating the breeding ground was internationally significant and further highlighted the importance of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as a globally significant biodiversity hotspot. Dr Rayner, a Little Barrier Island trustee, said the discovery reiterated the importance of careful management of conservation jewels, such as Little Barrier Island and surrounding marine environments.
The project has been funded this year by grants from Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, BirdLife International Community Conservation Fund, The Little Barrier Island Hauturu Supporters Trust and ASB Trust, Auckland Council, Forest & Bird Central Auckland Branch and Peter Harrison/Zegrahm Expeditions, with further support from the Department of Conservation, Hauraki Gulf Forum and Landcare Research.