Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The world’s largest breeding colony of Leach’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous has declined

  • SABINA I. WILHELM (a1), APRIL HEDD (a2), GREGORY J. ROBERTSON (a2), JOSHUA MAILHIOT (a1), PAUL M. REGULAR (a2), PIERRE C. RYAN (a1) and RICHARD D. ELLIOT (a3)...

Summary

Despite the global significance of the Leach’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous colony on Baccalieu Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the estimate of 3.36 million breeding pairs reported for 1984 by Sklepkovych and Montevecchi stands as the single published population estimate for the world’s largest colony. This study increases knowledge of this population by analysing data from additional independent surveys conducted in 1984 and 1985, and by updating the population status with a survey conducted in 2013. Population estimates were derived by extrapolating occupied burrow densities to the estimated occupied area of four main habitat types (heath, forest, grass and fern), which in turn were based on proportions of habitats observed in plots (1984 and 1985) or by using a Geographic Information System approach (2013). Based on these surveys, the Leach’s Storm-petrel breeding population size on Baccalieu Island was estimated at 5.12 ± 0.73 (SE) and 4.60 ± 0.42 (SE) million pairs in 1984 and 1985 respectively, representing estimates 37–51% greater than the original 1984 survey. While discrepancies among these estimates were largely driven by the way occupied areas were estimated, our study confirms that Baccalieu Island hosts the largest Leach’s Storm-petrel colony in the world. Results from the 2013 survey estimate the current breeding Leach’s Storm-petrel population at 1.95 ± 0.14 (SE) million pairs, representing a 42% decline over 29 years (-1.4% per year), relative to the original published estimate of 3.36 ± 0.12 (SE) million pairs. The most prominent change has occurred in the density of storm-petrel burrows found in forest habitat which dropped by 70% despite forest remaining the second most abundant habitat available to nesting storm-petrels on Baccalieu Island. The cause of this decline remains unknown and is likely multi-faceted. Future research focusing on demographic studies is required to understand what is driving the population decline of this internationally important colony.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence; e-mail: sabina.wilhelm@canada.ca

References

Hide All
Bicknell, A. W. J., Knight, M. E., Bilton, D, Reid, J. B., Burke, T. and Votier, S. C. (2012) Population genetic structure and long-distance dispersal among seabird populations: Implications for colony persistence. Mol. Ecol. 21: 28632876.
Bicknell, A. W. J., Knight, M. E., Bilton, D. T., Campbell, M., Reid, J. B., Newton, J. and Votier, S. C. (2013) Intercolony movement of pre-breeding seabirds over oceanic scales: implications of cryptic age-classes for conservation and metapopulation dynamics. Divers. Distrib. 20: 160168.
BirdLife International (2017) Hydrobates leucorhous. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22698511A119292983. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22698511A119292983.en
Bond, A. L. and Diamond, A. W. (2009) Mercury concentrations in seabird tissues from Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, Canada. Sci. Total Environ. 407: 43404347.
Bond, A. L., Wilhelm, S. I., Pirie-Hay, D. W., Robertson, G. J. and Arany, J. (Submitted) Gull predation in a declining Leach’s storm-petrel colony.
Bond, A. L., Wilhelm, S. I., Robertson, G. J. and Avery-Gomm, S. (2016) Differential declines among nesting habitats of breeding Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) in Witless Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Waterbirds 39 (Special Publication 1): 143151.
Buren, A. D., Koen-Alonso, M., Pepin, P., Mowbray, F., Nakashima, B., Stenson, G., Ollerhead, N. and Montevecchi, W. A. (2014) Bottom-up regulation of capelin, a keystone forage species. Plos ONE. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0087589
Burgess, N., Hedd, A., Pollet, I. L., Mauck, R. A., Diamond, A. W., Burke, C. M., McFarlane Tranquilla, L. A., Montevecchi, W. A., Valliant, M., Wilhelm, S. I. and Robertson, G. J. (2016) Differences in mercury exposure of breeding Leach’s storm-petrels related to their foraging patterns in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Oral presentation at 7th World Congress of the Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, Orlando, Florida, 610 Nov 2016.
Cairns, D. K., Elliot, R. D., Threlfall, W. and Montevecchi, W. A. (1989) A researcher’s guide to Newfoundland seabird colonies. St. John’s, NL. Memorial University of Newfoundland. Occasional Paper in Biology No. 14.
Fife, D. T., Pollet, I. L., Robertson, G. J., Mallory, M. L. and Shutler, D. (2015) Apparent survival of adult Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) breeding on Bon Portage Island, Nova Scotia. Avian Conserv. Ecol. 10(1):2. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00771-100201
Gjerdrum, C., Burgess, N., Hedd, A., McFarlane Tranquilla, L., Pollet, I., Ronconi, R. and Wilhelm, S. (2018) What risks do offshore lights and flares pose to Leach’s Storm-Petrels in Atlantic Canada? Paper presented at the 45th annual meeting of Pacific Seabird Group, Baja California Sur, México. Abstract retrieved from https://pacificseabirdgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Abstracts_PSG2018.pdf
Head, E. J. H. and Pepin, P. (2010) Spatial and inter-decadal variability in plankton abundance and composition in the Northwest Atlantic (1958–2006). J. Plankton Res. 32: 16331648.
Hedd, A., Pollet, I. L., Mauck, R. A., Burke, C. M., Mallory, M. L., McFarlane Tranquilla, L. A., Montevecchi, W. A., Robertson, G. J., Ronconi, R. A., Shutler, D., Wilhelm, S. I. and Burgess, N. M. (2018) Foraging areas, offshore habitat use and colony overlap by incubating Leach’s Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma leucorhoa in the Northwest Atlantic. Plos ONE 13(5): e0194389. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194389
Huntington, C. E., Butler, R. G. and Mauck, R. (1996) Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), version 2.0. In Poole, A. F. and Gill, F. B., eds. The Birds of North America. Ithaca, NY, USA: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Lormée, L., Delord, K., Letournel, B. and Barbraud, C. (2012) Population survey of Leach’s Storm-Petrels breeding at Grand Colombier Island, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Archipelago. Wilson J. Ornith. 124: 245252.
Mauck, R. A., Dearborn, D. C. and Huntington, C. E. (2018) Annual global mean temperature explains reproductive success in a marine vertebrate from 1955 to 2010. Glob. Change Biol. 24: 15991613.
Montevecchi, W. A. and Tuck, L. M. (1987) Newfoundland birds: Exploitation, study, conservation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, No. 21. Editor, Raymond A. Paynter, Jr.
Newson, S. E., Mitchell, P. I., Parsons, M., O’Brien, S. H., Austin, G. E., Benn, S., Black, J., Blackburn, J. Brodie, B. Humphreys, E., Leech, D., Prior, M. and Webster, M. (2008) Population decline of Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa within the largest colony in Britain and Ireland. Seabird 21: 7784.
Pollet, I. L. (2017) Influence of extrinsic factors on movements and reproductive success of Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa). PhD Thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Pollet, I. L., Hedd, A., Taylor, P. D., Montevecchi, W. A. and Shutler, D. (2014) Migratory movements and wintering areas of Leach’s Storm-Petrels tracked using geolocators. J. Field Ornithol. 85: 321328.
Pollet, I. L., Leonard, M. L., O’Driscoll, N. J., Burgess, N. M. and Shutler, D. (2016) Relationships between blood mercury levels, reproduction, and return rate in a small seabird. Ecotoxicology 26: 97103.
Pollet, I. L., Ronconi, R. A., Leonard, M. L. and Shutler, D. (2019) Migration routes and stopover areas of Leach’s Storm Petrels Oceanodrom leucorhoa. Mar. Ornithol. 47: 5565.
Pollet, I. L. and Shutler, D. (2018) Leach’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa population trends on Bon Portage Island, Canada. Seabirds 31: 7380.
Robertson, G. J. and Elliot, R. D. (2002) Changes in seabird populations breeding on Small Island, Wadham Islands, Newfoundland. Can. Wildl. Serv. Tech. Rep. Ser. No. 381. Atlantic Region.
Robertson, G. J., Russel, J. and Fifield, D. (2002) Breeding population estimates for three Leach’s Storm-petrel colonies in southeastern Newfoundland, 2001. Can. Wildl. Serv. Tech. Rep. Ser. No. 380. Atlantic Region.
Robertson, G. J., Russell, J., Bryant, R., Fifield, D. A. and Stenhouse, I. J. (2006) Size and trends of Leach’s storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa breeding populations in Newfoundland. Atlantic Seabirds 8: 4150.
Ronconi, R., Allard, K. A. and Taylor, P. D. (2015) Bird interactions with offshore oil and gas platforms: Review of impacts and monitoring techniques. J. Environ. Manage. 147: 3445.
Sklepkovych, B. O. (1986) The predatory behaviour and impact of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) on the seabird colonies of Baccalieu Island, Newfoundland. Master’s thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Sklepkovych, B. O. and Montevecchi, W. A. (1989) The world’s largest known nesting colony of Leach’s Storm-petrel on Baccalieu Island, Newfoundland. American Birds 43: 3842.
Stenhouse, I. J. and Montevecchi, W. A. (1999) Indirect effects of the availability of forage fish and fisheries discards: gull predation on breeding storm-petrels. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 184: 303327.
Stenhouse, I. J., Robertson, G. J. and Montevecchi, W. A. (2000) Herring Gull Larus argentatus predation on Leach’s Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma leucorhoa breeding on Great Island, Newfoundland. Atlantic Seabirds 2: 3544.
Wiese, F. K., Montevecchi, W. A., Davoren, G. K., Huettmann, F., Diamond, A. W. and Linke, J. (2001) Seabirds at risk around offshore oil platforms in the Northwest Atlantic. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 42: 12851290.
Wilhelm, S. I., Mailhiot, J., Arany, J., Chardine, J. W., Robertson, G. J. and Ryan, P. C. (2015) Update and trends of three important seabird populations in the western North Atlantic using a geographic information system approach. Mar. Ornithol. 43: 211222.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed