A colony of one of the world’s rarest seabirds has been found on the Caribbean island of Dominica, according to scientists.
The endangered black-capped petrel was last confirmed as nesting on the island in 1862. But a survey that started in January recorded 968 of the birds over the mountains, where they could potentially be making nests, the Birds Caribbean organisation says. Until now, the only known colonies were on the island of Hispaniola – now divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Only 1,000 to 2,000 breeding pairs are estimated to live there, and their habitat is under threat.
“Finding this colony of petrels on Dominica is a real game-changer for black-capped petrel conservation,” says biologist Adam Brown from Environmental Protection in the Caribbean, which carried out the survey. Dominica’s forests are well-protected, giving conservationists a “huge new opportunity” to try to secure the birds’ survival, he says.
The black-and-white bird was once a common sight on the island, but was wiped out in the late 1800s by hunting and the introduction of predators. They are notoriously hard to spot, spending only a few months on land each year, and flying to their underground burrows at night. Biologists used radar and night-vision scopes to count those discovered in Dominica. They now plan to trek into the mountains early next year to look for nests, to confirm that the birds are breeding.
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