Preparing for translocations of a Critically Endangered petrel through targeted monitoring of nest survival and breeding biology
journal contributionposted on 17.05.2021, 19:42 by JH Fischer, Heiko Wittmer, GA Taylor, I Debski, DP Armstrong
The population of the recently-described Whenua Hou diving petrel Pelecanoides whenuahouensis comprises c. 200 adults that all breed in a single 0.018 km2 colony in a dune system vulnerable to erosion. The species would therefore benefit from the establishment of a second breeding population through a translocation. However, given the small size of the source population, it is essential that translocations are informed by carefully targeted monitoring data. We therefore modelled nest survival at the remaining population in relation to potential drivers (distance to sea and burrow density of conspecifics and a competitor) across three breeding seasons with varying climatic conditions as a result of the southern oscillation cycle. We also documented breeding phenology and burrow attendance, and measured chicks, to generate growth curves. We estimated egg survival at 0.686, chick survival at 0.890, overall nest survival at 0.612, and found no indication that nest survival was affected by distance to sea or burrow density. Whenua Hou diving petrels laid eggs in mid October, eggs hatched in late November, and chicks fledged in mid January at c. 86% of adult weight. Burrow attendance (i.e. feeds) decreased from 0.94 to 0.65 visits per night as chicks approached fledging. Nest survival and breeding biology were largely consistent among years despite variation in climate. Nest survival estimates will facilitate predictions about future population trends and suitability of prospective translocation sites. Knowledge of breeding phenology will inform the timing of collection of live chicks for translocation, and patterns of burrow attendance combined with growth curves will structure hand-rearing protocols. A tuhinga whakarāpopoto (te reo Māori abstract) can be found in the Supplementary material.