1 Tahrcountry Musings: The battle to save Europe’s rarest seabird species

Friday, February 17, 2012

The battle to save Europe’s rarest seabird species

When a species bounces back from the brink, it is great news. It warms the cockles of the heart of conservationists worldwide. Here is one such happy news.

Zino’s Petrel (Pterodroma Madeira) is Europe’s rarest seabird. It is an endemic seabird of island of Madeira and breeds only there. The species was first described in 1903 by a German naturalist priest, Ernst Schmitz.
Zino's Petrel nests in burrows which they visit only at night. Quite a lot of depredation of eggs, chicks and adults has been causedin the past by introduced cats and rats. Conservation measures had enabled the population to recover to 65–80 breeding pairs. 

In August 2010 ravaging fires killed 25 young and 3 adults. Of the 13 young birds found alive, only one survived to fledge that year. Fire also brought in severe soil erosion, causing several nesting burrows to collapse. The species’ population was in jeopardy.

Recovery efforts were spearheaded by Natural Park of Madeira (PNM). With financial and logistical support from SPEA/BirdLife in Portugal, the RSPB/BirdLife in the UK and BirdLife International, about 100 natural nests were restored, while 60 new artificial nests were built. 

The efforts started bearing fruits in 2011. Monitoring of the breeding colony indicated that 45 nests were occupied – with eggs laid in 43 of them. Fledgling success was good, with 16 out of the 19 young birds eventually flying out to sea in October.

Tahrcountry joins conservationists worldwide in applauding the success.

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