February 29, 2016 – Westland Petrel (Procellaria westlandica)

Found in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean and off of South America, these large petrels breed only on New Zealand’s South Island. They eat cephalopods, fish, and crustaceans, often catching their prey while sitting on the surface of the water, occasionally diving. They are also scavengers, frequently seen following fishing vessels. Breeding in colonies, they build burrows up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) long near steep slopes or cliffs. They lay one egg and incubate it for around two months. After the chicks fledge, they don’t return to the colony for five years and only begin breeding when they are around ten years old. Classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, they are threatened by introduced predators, including dogs and cats, and habitat destruction on their breeding grounds. Street lights and electric lines also kill some fledglings and adults as they leave the colonies and many petrels are drowned by longline fishing boats at sea.