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  • Jaimie Cleeland

Tracking Kerguelen Petrels for the first time

Kerguelen Petrels are a unique species that fall in the genus Amphrodroma, making them taxonomically distinct from gadfly petrels, fulmarine petrels, prions and shearwaters. The taxonomic and morphological separation of Kerguelen Petrels from other Procellaridae suggests they possess distinct foraging behaviours and potentially use distinct oceanographic features.

A Kerguelen Petrel chick on Gough Island

To date, information about the foraging grounds of this species come from observations made at sea, which tell us they are circumpolar in the Southern Hemisphere; ranging from as far south as Ross Sea in the Antarctic to the northern tip of New Zealand. Kerguelen Petrels remain one of the few species of seabirds on Gough Island for which no tracking data exists.

Jaimie deploys a geolocator on an adult Kerguelen Petrel

With is in mind the team on Gough headed out into the field armed with 20 geolocators. It is unclear how many breed on Gough Island, but on thing is for sure - their numbers have declined significantly since the first expedition to Gough in 1955 - most likely due to mouse attack. This makes finding active burrows difficult. Furthermore, Kerguelen Petrel nest in deep, wet and muddy burrows - making burrow checks dirty work.

Kate having a look down a Kerguelen Petrel burrow with a scope.

By quantifying the importance of oceanographic features such as fronts, eddies and shelf waters to Kerguelen Petrels, this study supports ecological representation of critical habitats or ecosystem processes in designation processes when setting up marine protected areas.

#RoyalSocietyfortheProtectionofBirds #GoughIsland #geolocators #FitzpatrickInstituteofOrnithology #tracking #KerguelenPetrel #SouthAtlanticOcean #seabirds

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