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Breeding biology of fluttering shearwaters (Puffinus gavia) on Burgess Island in northern New Zealand

Berg, Martin (2016) BIOY01 20152
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is an abundant seabird endemic to breeding colonies in northern and central New Zealand. The species remains poorly studied, and here we present the first study to examine its breeding biology in detail. Fluttering shearwater nests were monitored daily from laying in September 2015 to fledging in January 2016 on Burgess Island (Mokohinau Islands group) in the outer Hauraki Gulf, northern New Zealand. Burrows were generally simple and non-branched. Eggs were laid over a period of 39 days with laying peaking 12th September. Incubation was 50 ± 3.7 days and chicks fledged after an average of 74 ± 4.3 days, from late December to the end of January. Chick development corresponds to the pattern observed... (More)
The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is an abundant seabird endemic to breeding colonies in northern and central New Zealand. The species remains poorly studied, and here we present the first study to examine its breeding biology in detail. Fluttering shearwater nests were monitored daily from laying in September 2015 to fledging in January 2016 on Burgess Island (Mokohinau Islands group) in the outer Hauraki Gulf, northern New Zealand. Burrows were generally simple and non-branched. Eggs were laid over a period of 39 days with laying peaking 12th September. Incubation was 50 ± 3.7 days and chicks fledged after an average of 74 ± 4.3 days, from late December to the end of January. Chick development corresponds to the pattern observed for other Procellariiformes, gaining body mass rapidly to a maximum of 115% of adult mass, and then losing weight until fledging. Chicks were fed most nights throughout chick-rearing, indicating adult birds have access to a stable food supply close to the colony. Breeding success was 63.8% and similar to other Puffinus species. This study provides baseline biological data for a poorly studied, yet common, New Zealand endemics seabird. The obtained new information will allow for further ecological investigations and improved conservation management for the species. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Are the petrels on Burgess Island in peril?

The fluttering shearwater is a small seabird that only breeds on a handful of islands along the coast of New Zealand. Despite being one of the most common seabirds in this area, until recently, almost nothing was known about this species. In fact, it could even be declining without us knowing it. In September 2015 we went to one of the fluttering shearwaters breeding colonies on Burgess Island to find out more about this little-understood seabird species.

Fluttering shearwaters belong to a group of seabirds called petrels in the avian order Procellariformes. These birds are perfectly adapted to life at sea, and every year they come back to the same island to breed. A single egg is laid in... (More)
Are the petrels on Burgess Island in peril?

The fluttering shearwater is a small seabird that only breeds on a handful of islands along the coast of New Zealand. Despite being one of the most common seabirds in this area, until recently, almost nothing was known about this species. In fact, it could even be declining without us knowing it. In September 2015 we went to one of the fluttering shearwaters breeding colonies on Burgess Island to find out more about this little-understood seabird species.

Fluttering shearwaters belong to a group of seabirds called petrels in the avian order Procellariformes. These birds are perfectly adapted to life at sea, and every year they come back to the same island to breed. A single egg is laid in September, and the hatchling will hopefully be ready leave the burrow, jump out of the cliff and disappear out at sea some months later on. But a successful breeding season depends first of all on the parents’ ability to find sufficient food out at sea to feed a hungry chick. Second, that the chick that is left alone in the nest, does not get eaten by one of the many harriers and owls patrolling the island.

Most seabird species around the globe are declining, mostly because of introduced predators eating the chicks who are waiting in their burrows or the adults getting entangled and drowned in fishing gear while out foraging. For this reason, it is important to improve our understanding of how well different seabird species in various breeding colonies are doing. Important questions that need to be answered are: What is the proportion of eggs that hatch? How healthy are the chicks? Do most chicks survive or is there a high mortality because of starvation or predation?

To answer these questions we went to Burgess Island in the outer Hauraki Gulf in northern New Zealand to study 47 pairs of fluttering shearwaters from egg laying in September until the point when all surviving fledglings had left their burrows in January 2016. Despite that waters around New Zealand have undergone some substantial changes in recent years due to overfishing and coastal development, we were relieved to find out that the fluttering shearwaters appeared to do quite well on Burgess Island. Only four hatchlings died before they had the chance to leave the burrow and 63 % of all fluttering shearwater pairs managed to get a healthy chick on the wings. This is a high number for a long-lived species like the fluttering shearwater!

However, the life of the fluttering shearwater remains poorly understood, and many aspects of its life history remain uncertain. It will, therefore, be important to ensure that the fluttering shearwater continues to do well on Burgess Island also in the future.

Supervisors: Jannie Linnebjerg, Department of biology of Lund University, Stefanie Ismar, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research and Matt Rayner, Department of biology, Auckland University
Degree Project, 30 credits 2016
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Berg, Martin
supervisor
organization
course
BIOY01 20152
year
type
M2 - Bachelor Degree
subject
language
English
id
8896409
date added to LUP
2016-12-27 14:59:31
date last changed
2016-12-27 14:59:31
@misc{8896409,
  abstract     = {The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is an abundant seabird endemic to breeding colonies in northern and central New Zealand. The species remains poorly studied, and here we present the first study to examine its breeding biology in detail. Fluttering shearwater nests were monitored daily from laying in September 2015 to fledging in January 2016 on Burgess Island (Mokohinau Islands group) in the outer Hauraki Gulf, northern New Zealand. Burrows were generally simple and non-branched. Eggs were laid over a period of 39 days with laying peaking 12th September. Incubation was 50 ± 3.7 days and chicks fledged after an average of 74 ± 4.3 days, from late December to the end of January. Chick development corresponds to the pattern observed for other Procellariiformes, gaining body mass rapidly to a maximum of 115% of adult mass, and then losing weight until fledging. Chicks were fed most nights throughout chick-rearing, indicating adult birds have access to a stable food supply close to the colony. Breeding success was 63.8% and similar to other Puffinus species. This study provides baseline biological data for a poorly studied, yet common, New Zealand endemics seabird. The obtained new information will allow for further ecological investigations and improved conservation management for the species.},
  author       = {Berg, Martin},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Breeding biology of fluttering shearwaters (Puffinus gavia) on Burgess Island in northern New Zealand},
  year         = {2016},
}