Rare Caribbean bird rediscovered in Dominica

Senior Biologist at EPIC Adam C. Brown with the Black-capped Petrel (Diablotin) in Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)
Senior Biologist at EPIC Adam C. Brown with the Black-capped Petrel (Diablotin) in Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

A team of scientists from EPIC and Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have recorded – for the first time – 968 Diablotin, also known as the Black-capped Petrel, over the mountains of Dominica, for which the last confirmed date of nesting of that species is 1862.

This rare seabird was once abundant on Dominica, but thought to be extirpated in the late 1800s due to overhunting and the introduction of mammalian species. Observations made with radar and supplemented by detection of vocalizations showed large numbers of petrels flying between the sea and potential nest areas in the island’s highest peaks. Details of the expedition are being released at the 20th International Meeting of BirdsCaribbean, taking place now in Kingston, Jamaica.

Adam Brown, Co-Founder and Lead Scientist at EPIC states, “Finding this colony of petrels on Dominica is a real game-changer for Black-capped Petrel conservation. For years we thought the only remaining colonies of petrels were on Hispaniola, where nesting habitat is diminishing at an alarming rate and pressures of human activity are significant. Dominica is an island-nation where nature conservation is a high priority and forests needed by petrels are well protected, so we now have a huge new opportunity to undertake conservation efforts to preserve this imperiled species.”

Biologists from EPIC and the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division of Dominica’s environmental ministry teamed up in January 2015 to do a systematic survey of the entire island of Dominica to locate Diablotin and determine its status. The Diablotin is a very difficult bird to study, as it is a seabird that comes to shore only for a few months of the year to breed, flying into forested mountains at night to underground burrows. A portable marine radar array and night vision scopes allowed biologists to locate, identify and count flying petrels in in the dark. This technique was developed and used successfully to study Diablotin on Hispaniola.

The next step is to confirm breeding by locating active nests. The team is confident that petrels observed on Dominica are breeding but the discovery of birds, eggs or chicks in burrows would make their presence a certainty. Biologists will make expeditions into the mountains in early 2016 when breeding petrels are expected to return to Dominica. Dominica’s forests, many pristine due to strong protections, would appear to offer prime nesting habitat to petrels, but also make locating burrows a challenge.

The Diablotin is considered one of the world’s rarest seabirds with an estimate of only 1,000-2,000 pairs remaining, and until recently, known to nest only on the island of Hispaniola (comprising the nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic).

Biologists and others, who have formed an International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group, held out hope that the species persisted on Dominica, buoyed by occasional findings of adult birds on the ground in coastal or inland areas. However, numerous searches to find evidence of nesting of this species on Dominica during the second half of the 20th century were unsuccessful. The dramatic re-discovery of Diablotin on Dominica gives that nation a huge role in securing the future of this species.

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32 Comments

  1. Just Saying
    July 30, 2015

    So much bird we caught as children in the country with catapault and lag-glie …..I maybe eat one of those birds like that already. hum…anyhow I happy that this bird is putting DA on the map. Yessss.

  2. Erma carr
    July 30, 2015

    How very interesting……happy to learn that we have such a rare Bird Spieces on our Beautiful Island..Thank you

  3. annoyed
    July 29, 2015

    is there we going and get publicity
    8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)

  4. Victoria Dlamini
    July 29, 2015

    Awesome news. Just this morning while commuting to work I read about these rare birds in the book Black and White Sand.

  5. July 29, 2015

    Thanks now we have what amounts to our oil. Protect, breed, them and sell to the rest of the World. More Money to the treasure.

    • M31GLXY
      July 30, 2015

      What a comment :( The ignorance of some people never seems to end!!! People like you put our species to shame! :(

      • pheenx
        October 24, 2015

        I koudnaseditbetta

  6. DollFace
    July 29, 2015

    Great news!

    Now leave those birds alone let them do their business…Don’t make our birds too famous before the American Dentist( Walter Palmer) come to D.A. and hunt down our birds eh.. :lol: :lol: :lol:

  7. stunned
    July 29, 2015

    a win for the conservation efforts on my island!!!

  8. Larry
    July 29, 2015

    Hopefully Skerro doh run dem bird gwada

  9. Shermaine
    July 29, 2015

    How wonderful.

  10. STEPHEN PAUL DELSOL
    July 29, 2015

    The discovery of the Black-capped Petrel is great news for Dominica. Looking at the picture of the bird, it throws me back to 62 years ago, when my daddy (a fisherman) used to come home with sea-birds, looking just like the Black-capped Petrel.

    After fishing for most of the day, without a catch, my daddy and his friend, used to climb up the steep mountain of Point de Fous, and surprise these seabirds who were laying eggs in their nest holes.

    I am sorry that my daddy’s generation probably contributed to the depletion of the numbers of the Black-capped Petrel. On the other hand, the 50s and 60s were hard times in Dominica. My daddy had to feed his hungry family by all means necessary.

    • Anonymous?
      July 29, 2015

      The article says the last confirmed date of nesting of that species is 1862. You and your daddy must be very old…:) :)

      • memoi
        July 29, 2015

        those birds were always here, they just did not see them often. I can bet now that they show the picture many Dominica will tell you they see these birds all the time but did not know what bird it was.

      • The Hand
        July 29, 2015

        The last confirmed date of the species was in 1862. yet it is here in 2015.

        Any body willing to add 1+1?

      • July 30, 2015

        @Anonymous,they didn’t say anything about where,the last nesting was! :twisted:

    • Malatete
      July 30, 2015

      I remember about bird hunting at Pointe des Fous. Yes, they were seasonal but I am not sure we are talking about the same animal here because apparently the Diablotin is at sea all day and only comes on land to rest at night and I would defy anyone crazy enought to scale that spot in the dark. It is not for nothing it has that name “Fools point” or “Point of the crazy ones”.

      • July 31, 2015

        And that’s why,they had to use night vision goggles to see them..

  11. DFR
    July 29, 2015

    Great discovery ! Hope we continue to protect their habitats while the government set some funds aside for continuous research .

  12. lightbulb
    July 29, 2015

    enhancing our tourisim product.

  13. July 29, 2015

    This is great news for as a child we were told that this :lol: birb was extinct from the island now this is exciting hope there numbers will increase tremendously

  14. Cyrique
    July 29, 2015

    God bless Dominica!!! This reflects how special & blessed we are. I’m delighted by this news!!

  15. Anonymous
    July 29, 2015

    Are we going to extend the SUPERSTITION and rename the bird like we did the mountain?

    • Peace
      July 29, 2015

      Hahaha! Good one

    • July 30, 2015

      @Anonymous,No,like the Airport. :lol: :lol: :lol:

  16. July 29, 2015

    Wasn’t the name of the tallest mountain changed from Morne Diablotin to something else? Can anybody provide the name it was changed to?

    • Titiwi
      July 29, 2015

      Forget about that, it was a superstitious nonsense.

  17. plantains
    July 29, 2015

    Nice

  18. Ukip
    July 29, 2015

    I did not realise that Morne Diablotin was named after this bird. Great news. Maybe this bird should be protected and added to the bird watching list on the island.

    • Malatete
      July 29, 2015

      It is mentioned, and an illustrated chapter dedicated to this bird in “Dominica’s Birds”. This splendid guide was produced by local Dominicans Arlington James, Stephen Durand and Bertrand (the “birdman”) Jno. Baptiste. It was published in 2005 and is available from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Div., on Valley Rd. (former L. Rose building) in Roseau.
      You will find an entry about the Black-capped Petrel on pages 38-39 and I’m pleased that the chapter can now be completed with the announcement that the bird has been found in Dominica again after years of fruitless search.

  19. Titiwi
    July 29, 2015

    Fantastic news! I hope it is an omen for the overall recovery and increased appreciation of our unique island home.

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