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SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > Marine birds > Fea's Petrel
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Fea's Petrel
Fea's Petrel - Pterodroma feae (Mathews 1934)
(Portuguese Common Name - Freira do Bugio)


This bird arrives on the Island of Bugio to nest at the end of June, lays a single egg in July, which then hatches from the middle of September. The earliest juveniles leave for sea in early November, and the latest at the end of January. Being pelagic birds, Fea's petrels are at sea between February and June in search of food. The juveniles return for their first nesting attempt after having spent around 5 years at sea. Its maximum lifespan is unknown, but birds over 20 old years have been caught.

Distribution and population size
Fea's Petrel nests on the archipelagos of Madeira and Cabo Verde, being endemic to Macaronesia. On the Archipelago of Madeira it is rare and nests exclusively on the Island of Bugio, with the majority of this population concentrated on a small plateau in the south of the island. The current population of the Desertas Islands was recently estimated at around 180 to 250 breeding pairs (Geraldes in prep.).

Identification
At sea, this bird can be distinguished from other species found on the archipelago, except for Zino's Petrel, by its flight (forming marked "V's"), by the marked contrast between the dark upper body and the white lower body, and by the dark inside of the wing.

Habitat
Fea's Petrel excavates a nest in the soil, and so non-eroded areas with vegetation are vital to its survival. It can also nest in holes in rocks or in areas of loose stones; this type of habitat is more often used by the populations on Cabo Verde.

Conservation
Threats

The reasons for the restriction of the breeding distribution of this bird have not been determined. However, the introduction of predators to these islands, the degradation of its natural habitat, and even human predation, can be taken as factors which contributed to its decline. These days on Bugio, one of the principal long term threats is the continuing degradation of the breeding habitat caused by rabbits and goats.

Conservation status and legal instruments of protection
Fea's Petrel is Near Threatened (globally) and is considered dependent on specific management measures. Is is included in Annexe I of the Birds Directive and Annex II of the Berne Convention. Its habitat is in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. In Portugal it is considered Vulnerable.

Current state of knowledge in Portugal
There have been studies of the breeding season and some total population censuses based on indirect evidence (such as the number of burrows with signs of occupation, total number of burrows, number of birds detected in the colony, etc). There is also some information on diet and distribution at sea, as well as its breeding biology.

Notes
Fea's Petrel emits a specific cry when near to the colony similar to a long wail. This sound is the origin of the name given by the fishermen of Madeira... “Ai-ai do Bugio”. Recent indications, based on biometric and phenological data, suggest that the population on Cape Verde may in fact be a distinct species. Given the important conservation implications, further studies are required.




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