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Breeding biology of the Critically Endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia on San Cristóbal Island: conservation and management implications

  • FRANCISCO CRUZ-DELGADO (a1), JOSÉ A. GONZÁLEZ (a2) and DAVID A. WIEDENFELD (a3)

Summary

The Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia is endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago, where it nests on only five islands. The species is considered ‘Critically Endangered’, mostly due to the effects of alien invasive species, which impair its reproductive success. During 2002–2003 we studied the breeding biology of the petrels nesting on San Cristóbal island. The study revealed particular characteristics of the San Cristóbal petrel population and differences compared to those of other islands, mostly related to nesting habitat, phenology, reproductive success and causes of mortality. On San Cristóbal, petrel nests were primarily located along ravines, in areas of dense vegetation cover formed by the endemic shrub Miconia robinsoniana and a wide variety of native ferns. Over 90% of the nests on the island were located on private agricultural land. The petrel population has a prolonged reproductive period covering 10 months. Laying dates occurred mostly from May to October, with a peak during August, although eggs may be occasionally laid between November and March. The incubation period averaged 50.8 days (range: 46–53), and parental care 103.7 days (range: 98–108). Overall reproductive success was 23.6%; 63.8% for eggs and 37.1% for chicks. Predation by rats was the primary cause (72.2%) of nest failure. Rat control campaigns and clearing of exotic plant species in areas of high density of petrel nests, as well as promoting cooperation agreements between conservation authorities and landowners of the properties where nests are located, are suggested among other critical management measures intended to reduce nest mortality and ensure the survival of the San Cristóbal petrel population.

El Petrel de Galápagos Pterodroma phaeopygia es un ave endémica del Archipiélago de Galápagos, donde anida en sólo cinco islas. La especie está considerada como En Peligro Crítico, principalmente debido al impacto de las especies exóticas invasoras que limitan seriamente su éxito reproductivo. Durante los años 2002–2003 estudiamos la biología reproductiva de los petreles que anidan en la isla San Cristóbal. Nuestro estudio reveló características particulares y diferencias con las poblaciones de otras islas, principalmente relacionadas con el hábitat de cría, la fenología, el éxito reproductivo y las causas de mortalidad. En San Cristóbal, los petreles hacen sus nidos en las encañadas, en zonas con vegetación densa dominada por el arbusto endémico Miconia robinsoniana y una amplia variedad de helechos nativos. Más del 90% de los nidos de la isla se encuentran en fincas agrícolas privadas. La población local de petreles tiene un período reproductivo bastante prolongado, que se extiende a lo largo de 10 meses. La mayoría de las puestas tuvieron lugar de mayo a octubre, con un pico durante agosto, aunque algunos huevos fueron puestos ocasionalmente entre noviembre y marzo. El período de incubación promedio fue de 50.8 días (rango: 46–53) y el cuidado parental se extendió por 103.7 días (rango: 98-108). El éxito reproductivo global fue del 23.6%, siendo del 63.8% para los huevos y del 37.1% para los pichones. La depredación por ratas fue la principal (72.2%) causa de fracaso reproductivo. La realización de campañas periódicas de control de ratas y la eliminación de plantas exóticas en las zonas con alta densidad de nidos, así como la formalización de acuerdos de colaboración entre las autoridades de conservación y los propietarios de las fincas privadas que albergan nidos, se sugieren como las medidas de manejo prioritarias para lograr reducir el fracaso reproductivo y asegurar la supervivencia de la población de petreles de San Cristóbal.

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Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence; e-mail: jose.gonzalez@uam.es

References

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Breeding biology of the Critically Endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia on San Cristóbal Island: conservation and management implications

  • FRANCISCO CRUZ-DELGADO (a1), JOSÉ A. GONZÁLEZ (a2) and DAVID A. WIEDENFELD (a3)

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