Providence Petrel
Pterodroma solandri

Procellariiformes Order - Procellariidae Family

The Providence Petrel is found in NW Pacific Ocean. It breeds in the Tasman Sea on Lord Howes Island and Phillip Island. It is marine and pelagic, and usually occurs well beyond the continental shelf.  
The breeding sites are mainly in forested areas, between 500 and 800 metres of elevation. But other sites are lower down in grassland at sea-level. The Providence Petrel is a colonial nester. It nests in burrow or in hollow under rocks, depending on the location. It feeds mainly on squid, fish and some crustaceans. 

The scientific name of this species pays tribute to the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander (1733-1782).
The Providence Petrel is affected by invasive species such as pigs and goats, cats and black rats. Competition for nesting burrows from the Wedge-tailed Shearwater is also a threat on Phillip Island. 
However, eradication of some invasive species involved an increase of the population. The Providence Petrel is not globally threatened at the moment.

Length: 40-46 cm
Wingspan: 95-107 cm
Weight: 425-567 g

The Providence Petrel is a large, heavy built gadfly petrel. The plumage is almost entirely dark greyish-brown, but the underparts are paler brownish-grey.
The upperparts and the wedge-shaped tail are dark grey-brown. The upperwing is similar in colour, but the primaries are darker with the outermost primaries showing faint, paler shafts. An indistinct darker diagonal band extends to the inner tertials.
The underparts including lower breast, belly, vent and undertail-coverts are paler, mostly brownish-grey. On the underwing, the coverts are dark grey-brown, whereas both greater and median coverts are paler, especially at bases. The primary feather bases form a large, pale silvery area and a narrower crescent at base of greater primary coverts. The undertail is grey-brown. Chin, throat and upper breast are dark grey-brown like the upperparts.
In worn plumage, the bird shows a variable amount of irregular white blotching on belly.

On the head, forehead to chin is dark grey-brown with white scaled pattern. The cheeks appear whitest.
The stout bill is black. The eyes are dark brown to blackish. Legs and feet are greyish-black.    

Male and female have similar plumage, but the male has longer wings and tarsi.
The juvenile resembles adults in Nov–Dec, when adults have heavily worn plumage.
The chick has smoky-grey down overall.       

The Providence Petrel is found in NW Pacific Ocean. It breeds on Lord Howe Island and also on Phillip Island, off S Norfolk. A small increasing population (more or less 250 pairs in 2016) now breeds on Phillip Island in the Norfolk Island group. The species have been extirpated from the Norfolk Island group in the early 1800s.

The Providence Petrel at sea is pelagic and often seen in deep water, both from the continental shelf and beyond.
It breeds at up to 900 metres of elevation in mountainous ground and mainly in forested areas, usually between 500 and 800 metres. But it may also breed lower in grassland.
Lord Howe Island has two fairly inaccessible mountains, Mount Lidgbird and the taller Mount Gower. The Providence Petrel breeds on the tops and slopes of these mountains.

The Providence Petrel is silent at sea, but it becomes noisy when in flight and on the ground at the breeding colonies.
The flight call is a screeching, rapidly repeated “kik-kik-kik”. When on the ground, it produces a higher-pitched, warbling “ker-rer-kuk-kuk-kuk-ker-rer’

The Providence Petrel feeds mainly on fish, squid and crustaceans. It may also sometimes feed on offal near the fishing boats. The main prey is a bioluminescent fish of family Myctophidae. It occasionally follows the fishing boats.

It is often recorded alone, but it sometimes forages in groups, including at night, with the Buller's Shearwater. It may dive up to five metres deep, but the food is often taken with the bill from the sea surface.

The Providence Petrel is a colonial breeder, and nests in burrows or hollows under rocks. It is mainly diurnal, at least during the courtship displays above the colonies. This behaviour takes place between mid-morning and late afternoon, when the displays are at their peak.
However, the chicks are usually fed during the night to avoid predation. Both parents share the nesting duties.

After breeding, the Providence Petrel moves to the central NE Pacific Ocean, and may reach the Bering Sea. They usually gather over convergences of warm and cold currents.  

The Providence Petrel is clumsy on the ground, but it becomes fast and agile in the air. The flight is easy with few wingbeats (except in light winds), with long glides twisting into arcs, high above the sea.

The breeding season starts in mid-February/mid-April, and the laying occurs during the second half of May. Hatching starts mid-July. The adults make a pre-laying exodus of unknown duration. 
The Providence Petrel is a colonial breeder. It nests in burrow of about 100cm long, or in hollow protected by rocks.
The Lord Howe population breeds in forests whereas on Phillip Island, the birds nest in burrows in eroded cliffs on soft volcanic soils.

The female lays a single white egg and both parents incubate during 8 weeks, in stints of unknown duration. At hatching, the chick has smoky-grey down overall. It is fed by both adults and fledges about 110 days after hatching, by mid-November. When it is six weeks old, it is fed on average every four days.

The Lord Howe population is not currently threatened since eradication of pigs, and the petrels are recolonising the lower slopes of the mountains. On Phillip Island, the Wedge-tailed Shearwater causes competition for burrows. The small colony on Phillip Island is irregularly surveyed. 
Invasive species including cats, pigs and goats have been eradicated from Lord Howe Island. Currently, the main causes of breeding failures are flooding, and predation of eggs and chicks by the Lord Howe Woodhen which excavates the burrows from above. On the other hand, the Pied Currawong of local subspecies “crissalis” may kill the chicks. But these threats are not very significant.
Longline fishing, hunting, plastic ingestion and climate change may also affect the species.

The current population is estimated to number 66,500/100,000 mature individuals. The numbers are suspected to be stable. More than 99% of the population breeds on Lord Howe Island.
The Providence Petrel is currently evaluated as Least Concern.

Fr: Pétrel de Solander
Ang: Providence Petrel
All: Solandersturmvogel
Esp: Fardela de Solander - Petrel de Solander
Ita: Petrello di Solander
Nd: Solanders Stormvogel
Sd: solanderpetrell

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

Petrels, Albatrosses, and Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide De Steve N. G. Howell – Editor: Princeton University Press, 2012 – ISBN: 0691142114, 9780691142111 – 482pages

OISEAUX DE MER – Guide d’identification de Peter Harrison – Editions Broquet (Canada) – ISBN-10 : 2890004090 – ISBN-13 : 978-2890004092

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

Birdlife International

Birds of the World

New Zealand Birds Online

Meet the Providence petrel: a charismatic seabird with some curious behaviour

Australian Geographic - The providence petrel is the sweetest seabird

Diet and foraging behaviour of the Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri

Ianís Bird of the Week Ė Providence Petrel ~ by Ian Montgomery

Emergence, growth, ageing and provisioning of Providence Petrel (Pterodroma solandri) chicks: implications for translocation

Sexual dimorphism in the PROVIDENCE PETREL Fterodroma solandri using DNA analysis

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre


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