Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

First record of Soft-plumaged Petrels, Pterodroma mollis, breeding in Australia

Alan Wiltshire A C , Sheryl Hamilton A and Nigel Brothers B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Nature Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, GPO Box 44, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia. Present address: Department of Conservation, PO Box 29, Te Anau, New Zealand.

B PO Box 81, Kettering, Tas. 7155, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: awiltshire@doc.govt.nz

Emu 104(4) 363-368 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU03016
Submitted: 28 April 2003  Accepted: 9 September 2004   Published: 16 December 2004


Confirmation that Soft-plumaged Petrels, Pterodroma mollis, breed in Australia was made at Maatsuyker Island, Tasmania, on 12 December 2001 when the first of six burrows containing incubating birds was found. The Soft-plumaged Petrel population is considered to be very small as only low numbers of adults were heard calling or observed flying at night and, despite extensive searches, only six nests were found. Monitoring during the 2001–02 and the 2002–03 breeding seasons indicated that laying occurred from mid-December and fledging from late April. It may be that small numbers of Soft-plumaged Petrels have always bred on Maatsuyker Island but, owing to their nocturnal and burrow-nesting lifestyle and the presence of large populations of other burrowing seabird species, they were undetected. Conversely, this discovery may be of a new colonisation or re-colonisation of Maatsuyker Island. There is a lack of consensus and clarity regarding the subspecies of Soft-plumaged Petrels and it is currently not possible to conclude which subspecies is breeding on Maatsuyker Island. Walker Island and Flat Witch Islands, both within 2 km of Maatsuyker Island, were also surveyed for Soft-plumaged Petrel burrows but none was found.


Funding was received from Environment Australia (Natural Heritage Trust Coast and Clean Seas Program CCS111/00), and the Nature Conservation Branch and Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment, Tasmania. Thanks go to the Maatsuyker Island volunteers for their hospitality, to Ken and Ben Roff, the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service and the Tasmanian Marine Police for transport to the islands, and to Aleks Terauds and Sally Bryant for assistance with field work during the 2002–03 field season. This project was conducted with ethics approval from the Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment, Tasmania (Animal Experimentation Certificate Numbers 3/2001–2002 and 22/2002–2003).


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