Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on January 4, 2008
The New Zealand Storm Petrel sure knows how to hide.
Listed among the extinct since the 1800s, these pelagic birds somehow managed to create a life free from the intrusion of humans. (Pelagic birds are those that spend their lives at sea, coming to land only to breed.)
And they did so for more than a century — until one was spotted in 2003. But like a mystical creature or an urban legend (Loch Ness anyone?), the spotting, accompanied by not-so-clear photos, was ruled inconclusive.
Perhaps emboldened by these human fumblings, the NZ Storm Petrel got a little bolder and began to venture out in small scouting flocks (perhaps hoping to test the waters). Little did they know that Bob Flood and Bryan Thomas were waiting for them, armed with paparazzi-style cameras. Needless to say, the two men hit the big time. Ten to twenty Petrels were confirmed alive and flying. Their images were splashed across the internet and their secret hideaway location, the Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands in the Hauraki Gulf, buzzed with the influx of Petrel-seeking bird watchers and conservationists.
Early in 2006, a capture resulted in three Petrels being (safely) fitted with radio transmitters in the hopes of tracking their breeding grounds. But a clever species doesn’t give up 150 years of underground living that easily. A massive search around the islands thought to be the secret location resulted in no signal transmission.
While November 2007 brought yet another quick spotting, we’re no closer to the answers. Where they hang out and how they escaped notice all these decades remains a mystery.
Clearly, they still have the upper wing on us.