Bulletin of The British Ornithologists' Club 2010 130(4):286-301
47499910

A new taxon of Collared Petrel Pterodroma brevipes from the Banks Islands, Vanuatu

Vincent Bretagnolle, Hadoram Shirihai
Vincent
Bretagnolle
&
Hadoram
Shirihai
301
Bull.
B.O.C.
2010
130(4)
the
first
was
at
15°18.925'S,
167°19.221'E
(at
11.14
h),
and
the
last
at
14°49.312'S,
167°26.907'E
(18.06
h),
with
max.
12
at
one
location.
Most
P.
b.
magnificens
were
associating
with
inshore
feeding
frenzies
of
terns
and
noddies,
boobies
and
shearwaters,
which
yielded
the
following
totals:
Wedge-tailed
Shearwater
Piiffinus
pacificus
300,
Audubon's
Shearwaters
P.
(Iherminieri)
gunax
20,
Polynesian
Storm
Petrel
Nesofregetta
fuliginosa
2
at
midnight
just
as
we
were
about
to
anchor
off
West
Gaua
Island
at
14°19.447'S;
167°25.322'E:
the
birds
were
attracted
to
the
lights
and
hovered
for
c.2
minutes
around
the
back
of
the
boat
(both
were
white-bellied),
Great
Frigatebird
Fregata
minor
3,
Red-footed
Booby
Sula
sula
50,
Brown
Booby
S.
lencogaster
20,
Sooty
Tern
Onychoprion
fuscatus
c.75,
Bridled
Tern
O.
anaethetns
10,
Black
Anous
minutus
and
Brown
Noddies
A.
stolidus
100s
with
largest
feeding
concentrations
off
Santo
(14°54.489'S,
167°22.555'E),
and
Pomarine
Skua
Stercorarius
pomarinus
2
attacking
the
noddies.
On
19
December
at
least
30
P.
b.
magnificens
in
sparse
aggregations
and
feeding
with
other
seabirds,
mostly
north-west
of
Gaua
at
c.14°04.15'S,
167°02.46'E:
we
encountered
at
least
five
major
mixed
seabirds
concentrations
within
just
three
hours,
all
with
3-10
P.
b.
magnificens.
Other
seabirds
included:
Wedge-tailed
Shearwater
250,
Audubon's
Shearwater
90,
Great
Frigatebird
20,
Red-footed
Booby
100,
Brown
Booby
30,
Sooty
Tern
70,
Black
and
Brown
Noddies
c.200,
and
White
Tern
Gygis
alba
3.
Vanua
Lava
(13°47'S,
167°28'E)
is
the
second
largest
of
the
Banks
(314
km
2
)
and
is
very
mountainous.
Mt.
Suretamate
(=
Mt.
Suretamatai
or
Sere
Ama,
921
m)
is
an
active
volcano
(last
major
eruption
1965),
but
the
island's
highest
point
is
946
m.
Its
human
population,
of
over
1,300,
mostly
lives
in
Sola
(the
capital
of
Torba
province),
in
the
east
of
the
island,
or
Port
Patteson.
To
the
east
are
the
islets
of
Kwakea
and
Ravenga.
We
used
Sola
as
a
base
to
access
Ureparapara,
Tande
and
Mota
Lava
islands.
On
24
December
HS
circumnavigated
Vanua
Lava
in
a
small
motor
skiff,
when
c.15
P.
b.
magnificens
were
seen.
Towards
evening,
from
17.00
h,
six
petrels
came
close
inshore
at
the
north-west
corner
of
the
island
(13°44.263'S,
167°20.705'E)
just
3-5
nautical
miles
out.
These
were
probably
breeders
returning
to
colonies
on
the
west
side
of
Vanua
Lava:
at
one
stage
two
birds
socialised,
with
one
repeatedly
following
the
other
for
a
few
seconds.
Their
behaviour
suggested
that
they
made
landfall
via
a
canyon
at
13°44.300'S,
167°24.900'E.
The
voyage
also
yielded:
Tahiti
Petrel
Pseudobulweria
rostrata
1,
Wedge-tailed
Shearwater
c.300,
Audubon's
Shearwaters
c.50
(two
adults
were
more
worn,
at
end
of
active
moult
in
wings,
with
still
unmoulted
and
growing
outer
primaries),
Great
Frigatebird
20,
Red-footed
Booby
100s,
Brown
Booby
10s,
Sooty
Tern
c.80,
Black
and
Brown
Noddies
many
100s,
but
more
of
former,
and
Pomarine
Skua
1
attacking
noddies.
On
night
of
26/27
December
2009
VB
&
A.
Sternalski
visited
Mt.
Suretamate
to
find
the
colony
of
Vanuatu
Petrel
(Totterman
2009,
Shirihai
&
Bretagnolle
2010).
The
moon
was
nearly
full,
but
clouds
and
rain
meant
that
few
petrels
were
calling,
although
VB
sound-recorded
several
typical
P.
brevipes
/
leucoptera-type
calls.
Together
with
the
observations
at
sea,
this
provides
strong
evidence
of
the
petrel's
breeding
grounds.
Ureparapara
(Parapara,
13°31'32"S,
167°19'36"E)
is
an
extinct
volcano
whose
cone
reaches
764
m
and
has
been
breached
by
the
sea
on
the
east
coast.
It
is
the
third-largest
island
in
the
Banks
group
(39
km
2
).
The
island
is
mostly
covered
by
plantations
and
dense
forest.
The
human
population
was
estimated
recently
at
c.500.
We
searched
for
petrels
on
both
land
(VB
&
A.
Sternalski)
and
at
sea
(HS)
on
20-23
December
2009.
The
original
human
population
apparently
numbered
many
thousands
and
any
possible
petrel
population
was
probably
extirpated
long
ago.
However,
some
islanders
showed
VB
&
A.
Sternalski
an
inactive
breeding
colony
with
c.5-7
empty
burrows,
whose
diameter
seemed
concordant
with
a
small
petrel
or,
more
likely,
a
large
storm
petrel
such
as
Nesofregetta.
The
search
at
sea
produced
very,
few
seabirds,
including
just
one
P.
b.
magnificens,
20
nautical
miles
offshore
(13°15.119'S,
167°12.526'E)
on
20
December.
Tande
(Vot
Tande
or
Vot
Ganai,
13°15'34"S,
167°38'33"E)
is
25
miles
north-east
of
Ureparapara
and
was
reached
on
22
December
2009.
Tande
has
quite
substantial
vegetation
and
many
breeding
seabirds.
It
is
uninhabited
and
relatively
inaccessible
because
landing
is
not
easy:
the
eastern,
northern
and
southern
sides
are
constantly
exposed
to
big
seas.
En
route
to
the
island
we
observed
seven
P.
b.
magnificens.
No
petrel
was
seen
at
night
around
Tande.
Mota
Lava
and
Ra
(13°40'15"S,
167°40'29"E)
are
relatively
small
(Ra
is
just
a
small
islet),
with
white
sand
beaches
and
coral
reefs
on
the
west
sides,
but
massive
rocks
in
the
centre
and
on
the
east
side.
Few
people
live
on
Mota
Lava.
HS
visited
the
open
ocean
north
and
north-east
of
the
island
on
25-27
December
2009
(cf.
Shirihai
&
Bretagnolle
2010),
when
86
P.
b.
magnificens
were
observed:
17
on
25
December,
47
on
26
December
and
22
on
27
December
(with
most
in
the
evening
when
petrels
are
closer
to
Vanua
Lava).
Again
these
P.
b.
magnificens
were
observed
with
mixed
seabird
feeding
flocks,
e.g.
Vanuatu
Petrel
9
on
25
December,
18
on
26
December
and
16
on
27
December;
Wedge-tailed
Shearwater
max.
70,
Audubon's
Shearwater
20,
Great
Frigatebird
10,
Red-footed
Booby
70,
Brown
Booby
6,
Sooty
Tern
35,
Black
and
Brown
Noddies
c.200.
©
British
Ornithologists'
Club
2010