Grey Petrels being tracked at sea by South African scientists


South African marine ornithologists have now returned from the annual relief expedition to sub-Antarctic Marion Island (click here for an earlier news item) and report a successful effort addressed at several ACAP species.


After some searching for this now rare species on the island, two incubating Grey Petrels Procellaria cinerea were fitted with archival loggers by a team led by Associate Professor Peter Ryan of the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute.  It is the first time this ACAP species will be tracked at sea: very little is known of its at-sea distribution while breeding.  Field Assistant Ben Dilley, who remains on the island for a year, is now watching the two nest sites closely, with the aim of fitting loggers to the partners once changeovers occur.


It is thought that the winter-breeding Grey Petrel was particularly hard hit by introduced cats at Marion, now thankfully eradicated from the island.  The tracking study is being conducted in conjunction with the British Antarctic Survey and with financial support coming from BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme following a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (see


In addition, a survey of the breeding distribution and numbers of the White-chinned Petrel P. aequinoctialis was successfully initiated with the major part of the suitable habitat visited and burrows counted over a three-week period.  Ornithologists staying on Marion for a full year will now complete the survey, allowing the first real estimate to be made.  A survey conducted at nearby Prince Edward Island in December 2008 (click here) will enable a population figure for the group to be calculated.


 News from Peter Ryan, University of Cape Town, posted 15 May 2009

The Agreement on the
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