The Sooty Shearwater Puffinus (Ardenna) griseus is almost extinct on the mainland of New Zealand. A small breeding group can be found near a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals Arctocephalus forsteri at Cape Foulwind on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This colony, which is close to a walkway, is being monitored by the West Coast Penguin Trust. A predator trap line helps to protect the shearwaters from Stoats Mustela erminea and taped calls are played through speakers to attract them.
On 21 December this year the trust carried out its annual check; 12 burrows were occupied by shearwaters with nine containing incubating birds, similar to the previous year’s census of 10 incubators. “Unlike last year, virtually all other suitable burrows showed signs of recent use by shearwaters so although numbers breeding have not increased, the number of shearwaters visiting the colony have, which is very encouraging.”
In the hour after dusk between November and April the public can view Sooty Shearwaters circling overhead at Cape Foulwind from the walkway before the birds crash-land in the flax and enter their burrows.
Sooty Shearwater, photograph courtesy of the West Coast Penguin Trust
The West Coast Penguin Trust is a charitable trust that aims to conserve penguins and other threatened seabirds and their habitat on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Trust raises funds, conducts research and implements practical projects relating to penguins in particular, as well as to other birds subject to similar threats.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 December 2015