Researchers Affirm Presence of Endangered Diablotin Black-capped Petrel on Dominica, Elevating Hopes of Discovering Nesting Space

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A Black-capped Petrel nesting space on Dominica can be the second recognized island breeding web site on the earth.

Researchers have confirmed a sighting of an Endangered Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata), recognized domestically as “the Diablotin chicken,” in flight over Dominica earlier this 12 months. Working with Dominica’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division, the researchers used thermal binocular know-how to document a video of the chicken flying by the night time close to a suspected nesting space. If nesting is confirmed, Dominica can be the second recognized nesting island for Black-capped Petrel on the earth. (Presently, nesting is simply recognized to happen on Hispaniola, the island comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic.)

The Black-capped Petrel is probably not one among Dominica’s most well-known birds, nevertheless it is likely one of the most mysterious. As soon as plentiful within the Caribbean, this uncommon seabird was extirpated within the late 1800s because of overhunting, modification of its nesting habitat by deforestation, and the introduction of mammalian species that prey on younger birds and eggs. With an estimate of fewer than 5,000 birds remaining, it is likely one of the most endangered seabirds within the Caribbean and globally. On Hispaniola, simply over 100 nests have been discovered by conservationists.

On Dominica, the Diablotin chicken is an integral a part of the native tradition. Mountains the place it as soon as nested nonetheless bear its identify, and conventional songs and poems point out it. The final Black-capped Petrel recognized to be nesting on the island was present in 1862, although historic proof means that the species endured till the Nineteen Thirties. Quite a few searches to seek out proof of nesting of this species on Dominica through the second half of the twentieth century have been unsuccessful.

Black-capped Petrel, copyright Aidan G Kelly, from the surfbirds galleries

However, lately, occasional findings of grownup and juvenile birds on the bottom in coastal or inland villages on Dominica raised hope that the species may nonetheless be nesting on the island. Nevertheless, as native Black-capped Petrel skilled Stephen Durand defined, “The Diablotin is nocturnal and flies to and from its nest solely at night time, making it very troublesome to watch. It additionally nests underground, in crevasses or burrows, on steep mountain slopes lined by thick vegetation—this provides to the issue of discovering its nesting areas.”

In January 2022, Durand and Eugene Felix, of Dominica’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division of the Ministry of Surroundings, Rural Modernization & Kalinago Upliftment, hosted a crew of petrel researchers led by Yvan Satgé, a Analysis Affiliate on the South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Analysis Unit, and Gérard Millischer, of Parc Nationwide du Mercantour in France. Utilizing the perfect out there thermal binocular know-how — designed to detect, observe, and acknowledge objects that emit warmth — Satgé and Millischer have been in a position to document the video of the Black-capped Petrel in flight.

Satgé, a core member of the Worldwide Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group (IBPCG) and a board member of Caribbean non-profit Environmental Safety within the Caribbean (EPIC), mentioned, “It is a crucial and thrilling statement: this sighting not solely confirms that Black-capped Petrels are current on Dominica nevertheless it additionally factors us on to the world the place they may be nesting. It takes time to discover a petrel colony however all of the efforts pursued by Stephen Durand and the Forestry Division are paying off. This statement actually boosts our hopes of discovering the Petrel’s nesting areas quickly.”

In 2015 and 2020, EPIC carried out radar surveys on Dominica, exhibiting that petrels have been lively on the island. These surveys have been instrumental in finding Black-capped Petrel flyways and have been used to estimate the dimensions of the inhabitants at presumably within the a whole bunch, however radar know-how couldn’t be used to find nesting areas. The thermal know-how utilized by Satgé and Millischer was not in a position to affirm the dimensions of the inhabitants however offered particulars on the flight sample of the person close to Trois Pitons.

“The petrel was between 700 meters (2297 toes) and 1 kilometer (3280 toes) away from us. Nonetheless, we have been in a position to see it come out of the clouds that surrounded Morne Trois Pitons and fly in direction of the ocean,” Millischer mentioned. “Sadly, the thick layer of clouds prevented us from exactly seeing the place it was coming from on the mountain however we’re very assured that this petrel had simply left its nest and was leaving for a foraging journey at sea.”

Jennifer Wheeler, core member of the IBPCG and lead creator of the 2021 Black-capped Petrel Conservation Replace and Motion Plan, mentioned: “Discovering nesting websites of the Black-capped Petrel on Dominica can be an actual game-changer for its conservation. We might lastly take motion to guard this charismatic species on Dominica, which affords a number of the most pristine nesting habitat within the Caribbean. It could even be a stepping stone to presumably discovering nesting areas on the neighboring island of Guadeloupe, the place a small inhabitants might be persisting. The years forward look very promising!”

To help Durand and Felix, the IBPCG is already planning subsequent steps on Dominica, concentrating search efforts on the world that Satgé and Millischer situated on Morne Trois Pitons. Adam Brown, EPIC’s lead scientist and Black-capped Petrel skilled, mentioned, “We’re assured we will discover and shield the nesting areas of the Diablotin chicken on Dominica. We’ve by no means been that shut: utilizing all of the instruments out there, all we’d like is one massive push. This January 2022 expedition gave us the momentum to do exactly that.”

This effort was supported by American Bird Conservancy, BirdsCaribbean, and Environmental Safety within the Caribbean.

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