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Black-capped Petrel Moves Closer to Federal Protection

Rare bird will be evaluated for Endangered Species Act listing

Washington, DC – The black-capped petrel, a rare seabird, took the first step toward protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) last week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that threats appear significant enough to begin a 12-month review of the species for possible listing under the ESA.

“We’re glad the USFWS will consider these rare birds for listing,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocates for WildEarth Guardians. “They face a myriad of threats and deserve the strongest protections we can give them.”

The black-capped petrel, named for its distinct black crown, nests in colonies with its nests perched in crevices or burrows in steep mountain cliffs. There are only 12 remaining breeding colonies, located in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The black-capped petrel is nocturnal, and feeds on squid and fish in its maritime foraging grounds, centered in the South Atlantic Bight between North Carolina and Florida.

USFWS found that the black-capped petrel’s narrow foraging habitat is threatened by offshore energy development. These birds are attracted to oily surfaces to feed, so an oil spill would be deadly for them. On land the species is threatened by habitat destruction due to deforestation and agriculture. It faces predation by introduced species such as cats, dogs, and opossums, and is also hunted for food by local people. In addition, the birds may die from collisions with telecommunication infrastructure or structures associated with oilrigs. The USFWS, citing these threats, announced that the species warranted a 12-month review on June 21.

WildEarth Guardians petitioned this rare bird on September 1, 2011, the 97th anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last passenger pigeon. The conservation group commemorates Passenger Pigeon Day every year by acting to advance protections for imperiled birds.

“The passenger pigeon is gone but not forgotten,” said Jones. “Hopefully we can memorialize its passing by inspiring action for other bird species like the black-capped petrel so that they might avoid the passenger pigeon’s fate.”

Listing under the ESA would help protect the species from threats such as off-shore energy development. Listed migratory species that spend part of the year in the U.S. also benefit from the development of recovery plans under the ESA. Listing would also support conservation efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


 

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