Proposal (577) to South American Classification Committee


Add Fea’s Petrel Pterodroma feae deserta to the main list


Background: None previously mentioned by SACC. Pterodroma (feae) deserta breeds exclusively on the island of Bugio in the Desertas group, Madeira archipelago (to Portugal) in the northeast Atlantic. In 2006-2007, the population of this taxon was estimated <1,000 mature individuals (Ramírez 2008). Virtually nothing was known about the pelagic movements of deserta until now.


Recently published data: From 2007 and 2010 some 24 GLS-immersion loggers were attached to birds at the Bugio breeding site, of which 17 were eventually recovered with the results just published (Ramírez et al. 2013). Seven core pelagic areas were identified including two in the SACC region: North Brazilian Current, and South Brazilian Current where birds spent five months (e and f respectively in Fig. 1B, Ramirez et al. 2013). The mapping of all logged locations (Fig. 1A) shows movements right up to the Brazilian coast, in particular in the core areas mentioned along the coasts and inshore and offshore waters of Rio Grande do Norte south to Sergipe, and from Rio de Janeiro south to Parana. Of the numerous other locations mapped around eastern and northern South America, the evidence includes logged records within 200 nm off French Guiana and Suriname. The species will likely be found within the SACC boundary for Venezuela, Guyana and Uruguay although the locations from Ramirez et al. 2013 are too distant from the shore or are borderline. Of major importance for NACC, is another core area in the Gulf Stream Current from North Carolina to the Florida Keys, USA.


Taxonomic issue: The taxon deserta has long been regarded as a subspecies of Fea’s Petrel Pterodroma feae with nominate feae breeding exclusively in the Cape Verde Islands; unknown in the SACC region. Several authorities have either recently split Desertas Petrel P. deserta as a full species while others are deliberating the case. Given the complexities involved within the genus and substantial recent published evidence, that decision merits a separate detailed SACC proposal.


Recommendation: I recommend a YES vote to add Pterodroma feae to the main list, and to add it to the Brazil, French Guiana and Suriname country lists as NB. A taxonomic and English name proposal would be an important follow-up once this proposal passes.


Literature Cited:

Ramírez, I, (2008) Thought you knew about Fea’s Petrel? It’s time to think again. Sea Change: 9.


Ramírez, I, Paiva, V.H., Menezes, D., Silva, I, Phillips, R.A., Ramos, J.A. & Garthe, S. (2013) Year-round distribution and habitat preferences of the Bugio petrel. Marine Ecology Progress Series 476: 269-284.


Mark Pearman, March 2013





Comments from Stiles: “YES. This case is actually not so different from the use of recoveries of banded birds to document distributions, especially of migrants, which as far as I know, is a well-established practice – at least as a supplement to specimen data.  The residual uncertainty with respect to banded birds is in the assumption that the birds in question were correctly identified by both the bander and the recoverer, especially when the birds were released after recovery.  In the present case, this uncertainty was removed: the birds were identified on the breeding island where no other similar taxon breeds, fitted with tracking devices allowing individual monitoring, the tracking devices were recovered from these known individuals and the evidence was published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Given these strictures, the records should be accepted as valid evidence of occurrence of this taxon in the SACC bailiwick.  Such evidence is especially important where field identification and collection of the species in question are difficult – the case of the recent delimitation of the winter range of Cypseloides niger is a nice case in point. (I agree that the decision to recognize P. deserta as a species distinct from P. feae is a separate issue, which should be treated in a separate proposal).”


Comments from Zimmer:  YES.  As Gary notes, this GLS tracking data is actually more reliable than banding recoveries of migrants, particularly when dealing with a group where field identification is notoriously difficult.”


Comments from Pacheco:  “YES.  My tentative vote is yes, if locators / loggers are accepted as sufficient evidence for main list.”


Comments from Nores: “YES. As Gary notes, this GLS-immersion logger data is more reliable than banding recoveries and for me, also than observation with binoculars, when you are dealing with a group of oceanic birds, like this one, where identification at sea is very difficult.”