Pintado petrels breeding at Marion Island

Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.

Masotla MJ, Snyman A, Makhado AB, and Dyer BM. 2019. First breeding record of Pintado petrel (Daption capensis) at Marion Island. Biodiversity Observations 10.2:1-5

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First breeding record of Pintado petrel (Daption capensis) at Marion Island

Makhudu J Masotla

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Albert Snyman

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Azwianewi B Makhado

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Bruce M Dyer*

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

March 20, 2019


Pintado or Cape petrels Daption capense have a circumpolar distribution and have been recorded breeding at 23 localities in the Southern Ocean (Marchant and Higgins 1990). The sub-species, Daption c. australe breeds only at five islands off New Zealand (Marchant and Higgins 1990). After breeding, many of the nominate sub-species disperse northwards towards southern Africa, while D. c. australe disperses mostly eastwards, although one was observed in the Prince Edward Island Exclusive Economic Zone (PEI-EEZ) in 1996.

Marion Island (46° 54’ S, 37° 45’ E) is the larger of the two islands comprising South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands (PEIs) in the southwest Indian Ocean. The islands are volcanic with rugged coastlines and few beaches. A Base was established on Marion Island in 1950 and is still in use to date.

Pintado petrels have been recorded as vagrants to Marion Island since 1951 (Crawford 1952; Burger et al. 1980; Cooper 1984; Gartshore 1987; Oosthuizen et al. 2009). On 29 November 2016, whilst conducting a coastal seabird census, a Pintado petrel was noted ashore on a narrow ledge covered with Crassula sp. near cliffs at Cape Hooker (Fig. 1). On closer investigation it was noted that the bird was incubating an egg. The nest, a shallow scrape against a rock (Fig. 2), was similar to nests of the species observed at Bouvet Island in 1996 by Bruce M Dyer. Its discovery led to a more careful search along the adjacent coastline and four more active nests were found in similar habitat. Two of the nests subsequently produced a downy chick, one of which was photographed on 30 January 2017 (Fig. 3). This is the first record of the species breeding at the PEIs and brings the number of seabird species, including the lesser sheathbill, reported breeding there to 31 (Crawford and Cooper 2003; Ryan et al. 2009).

Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.
Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.
Figure 2: An incubating Pintado petrel at a typical nest site
Figure 2: An incubating Pintado petrel at a typical nest site
Figure 3: A Pintado petrel chick showing a tuft of downy feathers.
Figure 3: A Pintado petrel chick showing a tuft of downy feathers.

Pintado petrels have previously been recorded at Marion Island since 1951 (Crawford 1952) and were regarded by Oosthuizen et al. (2009) as occurring too frequently for the species to be regarded as a vagrant. They have been reported from two regions of Marion Island. There were 19 observations between King Penguin Bay and Archway from 1952-2015 (Table 1). In this area numbers of birds seen ranged from 1-6 individuals and occurred from April to December, with no records from January to March. There were 16 observations at Kildalkey Bay from 1986 until January 2017 (Table 1). At this locality birds were seen from June to December and numbers were usually from 1-13 individuals. However, 20 birds were observed in August 1986, 25 in September 1986 and c. 200 in July 1991.

Table 1: All documented records of Pintado petrels observed at Marion Island from 1952-2017. Information for 1952-2015 is from Crawford 1952, Burger et al. 1980, Cooper 1984, Gartshore 1987, Oosthuizen et al. 2009 and several unpublished records from 1988-2007.

Date Numbers seen Location
1952 1 Base
1971 2 Base
11 May 1975 1 Base
29 August -31 December 6 Base
1976 1 Base
October 1981 1 Base
November1981 1 Archway
December 1981 5 Offshore of Base
20 April 1982 1 between Marion and PEI
7-8 September 1982 1 between Marion and PEI
7-8 May 1983 2 Kildalkey
26 June1986 2 Kildalkey
29 July 1986 20 Kildalkey
8-10 August 1986 25 Kildalkey
23-24 September 1986 1 Duiker’s Point
30 November 1986 1 Trypot
1 December 1986 1 Macaroni Bay
20 December 1986 2 Duiker’s Point
20 December 1986 c. 200 Kildalkey
21 July 1991 2 Kildalkey
16 August 1993 5 Transvaal Cove
16 November 1994 2 Kildalkey
22 November 1994 1 Kildalkey
23 November 1994 1 Kildalkey
November 2001 1 Trypot
November 2001 1 King Penguin Bay
14 July 2005 1 Base
13 May 2010 3 Cape Hooker
3 August 2011 > 7 Kildalkey
9 October 2011 1 Kildalkey
2 November 2011 1 Kill Point
19 November 2013 6 Kildalkey
1 December 2013 1 Kill Point
2 December 2013 1 Base
5 May 2015 13 Kildalkey
November 2016 7 Hooker Cove
November 2016 4 Hooker Cove
December 2016 2 Hooker Cove
January 2017 2 Hooker Cove

Pintado petrels breed at the nearest archipelagos to the west (Bouvet Island) and east (Crozet Islands) from October to March (Bakken 1991; Marchant and Higgins 1990). It is possible that previous breeding by the species at Marion Island was overlooked. The coastline from Kildalkey Bay around Cape Hooker to Puisie is difficult terrain and is thus seldom visited. However, there have been sustained ornithological studies at the Marion Island since the 1970’s (Cooper and Brown 1990) that included two dedicated summer surveys of widely-distributed species (Crawford and Cooper 2003; Ryan et al. 2009). Therefore, it is also possible that breeding by Pintado petrels at Marion Island was recently initiated. At Kildalkey Bay, in their summer breeding season they have fed on scraps of food generated from kills of penguins made by Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazelle (Bruce M Dyer & Azwianewi B Makhado, pers. obs.).

References

Bakken V 1991. Fugle og selundersokelser pa Bouvetoya I Desember/Januar 1989/90. Norsk Polarinstitutt Meddelelser 115: 30pp.

Burger AE, Williams AJ, Sinclair JC 1980. Vagrants and the paucity of land bird species at the Prince Edward Islands. Journal of Biogeography 7:305-310.

Cooper J 1984. Rarely reported seabirds at the Prince Edward Islands, June 1981-November 1983. Cormorant 12:49-54.

Cooper J, Brown CR 1990. Ornithological research at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands: a review of achievements. South. African Journal of Antarctic Research 20:40-57.

Crawford AB 1952. The birds of Marion Island, South Indian Ocean. Emu 52:73-85.

Crawford RJM, Cooper J 2003. Conserving surface-nesting seabirds at the Prince Edward Islands: the roles of research, monitoring and legislation. African Journal of Marine Science 25:415-426.

Gartshore N 1987. Rare bird sightings at the Prince Edward Islands, December 1983 – May 1987. Cormorant 15:48-58.

Marchant S, Higgins PJ (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 1. Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Oosthuizen WC, Dyer BM, de Bruyn PJN 2009. Vagrant birds ashore at the Prince Edwards Island, southern Indian Ocean, from 1987 to 2009. African Journal of Marine Science 31:446-460.

Ryan PG, Jones MGW, Dyer BM, Upfold L, Crawford RJM 2009. Recent population estimates and trends in numbers of albatrosses and giant petrels breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 31:409-417.