Fledging Westland Petrels get a dark sky as street lights are switched off - but what about Hutton’s Shearwaters?

 Westland Petrels for release

Downed fledgling Westland Petrels ready  for release

Good news for New Zealand’s endemic globally Endangered and nationally Naturally Uncommon Westland Petrel Procellaria westlandica comes from the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust via recent posts to its Facebook Page: “After 12 months of discussion with the NZTA [Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency] about the streetlight upgrade in Punakaiki causing Westland Petrel fallout, the most pragmatic and best possible outcome has been confirmed.  The street lights are going to be switched off for all of fledging season!”  The birds become disoriented by the light and crash-land on to the road, where they are often severely injured, struck by cars or eaten by predators.

The threatened Westland Petrel or Taiko is an ACAP-listed species endemic to New Zealand’s South Island and only to be found breeding at a single locality close to Punakaiki.  A s a result of the discussions 15 street lights have been switched off as a trial along a 3.4-km section of the state highway for two months from 8 November to 8 January when the fledglings leave their nest burrows (click here) - to great effect as illustrated below.

Westland Petrel street lights 

"Dolomite Point Nov 2019 - Not a star can be seen in the sky and a row of blinding street lights illuminate an empty stretch of road. A petrel chick was found crash landed beneath the closest lamp"

 Westland Petrel no street lights

"Dolomite Point Nov 2020 - A dazzling night sky shines out from behind clouds, silhouetting nikau palms and unlit street lights"

On the other side of South Island adults and fledglings of the Nationally Vulnerable and globally Endangered Hutton’s Shearwater or Kaikōura Tītī Puffinus huttoni leaving their mountain burrows crash land after becoming disoriented by artificial lights in the town (click here).  Unlike in Punakaiki, it seems there are no plans to turn off the street lights in Kaikōura because it has a lot more traffic and people.  However, the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust has posted on its Facebook Page that the Kaikōura District Council is currently proposing to replace all of the township’s streetlights with “wildlife-friendly LED luminaries”.  The trust is urging Kaikōura residents to turn off non-essential outside lights, close curtains at night, keep cats and dogs inside at night and drive carefully particularly from mid-March to early April – when fledging takes place.

Huttons road kill

A road-killed Hutton's Shearwater in a Kaikōura street

Read earlier posts to ACAP Latest News on the deleterious effects of street lighting on both Westland Petrels and Hutton’s Shearwaters.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2020

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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