The observer, birding tour guide Richard Baxter, was able to compare it directly with Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata, the bird with which it is most likely to be confused (and with which it may be conspecific).
Despite the 77-year gap in the record, BirdLife had categorised Beck’s Petrel as Critically Endangered rather than Extinct.
“It probably remains extant, because there have been a number of recent records of up to 250 individuals of the very similar Tahiti Petrel in the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands which may refer to this species,” states BirdLife’s species account.
“Furthermore, petrels that are nocturnal at the nesting grounds are notoriously difficult to detect, and there are numerous possible breeding sites on isolated atolls and islands that require surveying.”
However, it adds: “Any remaining population may be tiny.”
Baxter had been crossing the Coral Sea for two days, en route from Noumea to Australia.
“Tahiti Petrels were abundant the entire time we were in suitably deep water and I had seen several hundred,” he reported.
“The Beck’s was the size of a Cookilaria petrel [a subgenus of small Pterodromas], significantly smaller than a Tahiti Petrel, and comparable to both Black-winged Pterodroma nigripennis and Gould’s Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera, which were also seen that morning.”
The BirdLife International Pacific Secretariat, supported by the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Marisla Foundation is launching a new project under its Preventing Extinctions Programme seeking to unravel the mystery of the Beck’s Petrel: here.
- Saving petrels on Fiji (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Hawaiian Petrels Get Ready for First Flight (pacificislandparks.com)
- Boxing clever to save St Kilda petrels (scotsman.com)
- Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Best Science Books 2012: The Birdbooker Report [Confessions of a Science Librarian] (scienceblogs.com)
- Fiji petrel sound discovery (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Pelagic birding trip off Cape Point South Africa 13 January (parrotletsuk.typepad.com)
- Sea Days, En Route to Elephant Island (geosociety.wordpress.com)
- Good Swiss bird news (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Scilly islands sea bird news (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)