Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Critically Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Petrodroma heraldica (Herald Petrel) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002e) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Recovery Plan for Ten Species of Seabirds 2005-2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005f) [Recovery Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Offshore and foraging pelagic seabirds - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011h) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (01/07/2002) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): July 2012)
Scientific name Pterodroma heraldica [66973]
Family Procellariidae:Procellariiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Salvin, 1888)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Pterodroma heraldica

Common name: Herald Petrel

The Herald Petrel, Pterodroma heraldica, has recently been separated from P. arminjoniana, of the Indian Ocean (Brooke & Rowe 1996; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Warham 1996), which has been termed the Round Island Petrel (Garnett & Crowley 2000). They were formerly considered to be a single species, with an extensive subtropical breeding range across the width of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans (Blakers et al. 1984; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Herald Petrels occur in dark and light morphs, which are thought to possibly represent separate species based on behavioural and molecular evidence (Brooke & Rowe 1996). On Henderson Island, one of the Pitcairn Islands of the Central Pacific, Brooke and Rowe (1996) found evidence of reproductive isolation between the light and dark morphs, which courted and bred assortatively, bred in different parts of the island (dark birds nearer the coast) and at slightly different times (dark birds mostly in the austral winter and light birds more evenly throughout the year). They also uttered different calls. Results obtained from DNA analyses of the two morphs were also consistent with reproductive isolation (Brooke & Rowe 1996). Based on this evidence, the dark morph was raised to a new species, P. atrata, whilst the light-phased birds remained as P. heraldica.

Almost all of the records in the Australasian region have been of the pale morph, except for one dark morph recorded in the Coral Sea and one intermediate morph off Ballina, northern NSW (Izzard & Watson 1980; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Herald Petrel occurs in the Pacific Ocean (Blakers et al. 1984; Brooke & Rowe 1996; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990). Its breeding range extends from Raine Island, northeast Australia, in the west, as far east as Easter Island, and between approximately 8° and 27°S (Brooke & Rowe 1996; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Garnett & Crowley 2000; King 1984, 1996; King & Reimer 1991; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

It forages in waters surrounding these islands mostly south of the equator. In Australia, it has only been recorded breeding in small numbers on Raine Island, but it possibly breeds on other small cays in the Coral Sea (Garnett & Crowley 2000; King 1984, 1996; King & Reimer 1991; Marchant & Higgins 1990). Raine Island is an outer cay of the Northern Great Barrier Reef (King 1996). The Herald Petrel was first recorded at Raine Island in Febrary 1959, when it was suspected to be breeding (Marchant & Higgins 1990). However, breeding was not confirmed until July 1982 (King 1984).

It is seen occasionally at sea off the east coast of Australia. For example, it has been recorded in the following locations: the Coral Sea, northern Queensland, May 1981; beachcast at Burleigh Heads, southern Queensland, January 1971; 30 km east of Ballina, northern NSW, May 1979; 36 km east of Sydney, central NSW, October 1982; and as far south as 300 km south-east of Nowra, November 1962 (Izzard & Watson 1980; King 1984, 1996; Marchant & Higgins 1990; McBride & Hobcroft 1984).

Globally, the Herald Petrel is known to occur on, and in waters around, Easter Island, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Pitcairn and Tonga. Its global breeding extent of occurrence is estimated to be less than 50 000 km², but greater than 20 000 km² (BirdLife International 2004b).

The global population size has not been quantified, but the population is believed to be greater than 10 000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2004b).

The population estimates of the Herald Petrel include less than 10 breeding pairs in Australia (Blaber 1996), or fewer than 50 mature individuals (Garnett & Crowley 2000). King (1996) and King and Reimer (1991) stated that the population was very small, and never recorded more than 12 individuals during counts of Herald Petrels on Raine Island.

The generation time for the Herald Petrel has been estimated at about 10 years, but with low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The Herald Petrel is a marine, pelagic species of tropical and subtropical waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Published sightings of the Herald Petrel off eastern Australia occur from the edge of the continental shelf, 30-36 km offshore, and over water of 250-270 m depth (Izzard & Watson 1980; Marchant & Higgins 1990; McBride & Hobcroft 1984).

The species nests on tropical and subtropical islands, atolls, cays and rocky islets (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

In the Australasian region, breeding is only known from Raine Island, Queensland, where the birds nest on the ground on a low sand ridge, under a mat of dense shrubs (Achyranthes aspera, Abutilon indicum, Amaranthus leptostachys, Sesbania cannabina), creepers (Tribulus cistoides) and grass (Lepturus repens) (Garnett & Crowley 2000; King 1984, 1996; King & Reimer 1991).

Whilst roosting on Raine Island, adult petrels are absent by day, but return in the mid to late afternoon to roost on the ground under vegetation (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The breeding biology of the Herald Petrel is poorly known. On Raine Island, they probably breed in simple pairs, as two adults have been found with chicks, but adults have also been seen in trios (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Four clutches, comprising two nests with single eggs, and adult birds with single chicks, were described by King (1984) and King and Reimer (1991) from Raine Island. Thus, the clutch size is one.

Herald Petrels have a period of residence and breeding on Raine Island from February to at least September, followed by a post-breeding period of dispersal and feeding at sea by both adults and juveniles (del Hoyo et al. 1992; King 1984; King & Reimer 1991; Marchant & Higgins 1990). There are no records of Petrels at Raine Island from October to January.

The breeding period is considered to be from July to September (King 1996; King & Reimer 1991). On Raine Island, nests have been recorded in July and August, and chicks in July (King 1984; King & Reimer 1991).

The Herald Petrel probably feeds on cephalopods (squid), but its diet is otherwise unknown (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Herald Petrels usually fly within 20 m of the sea surface, and take food from on or near the surface (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Herald Petrel is described as a dispersive or migratory species, but the pattern of movement is poorly known (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990). The Australian population is absent from the breeding colonies on Raine Island at least from November to January (del Hoyo et al. 1992; King 1984; Marchant & Higgins 1990). In other parts of the Pacific, a continuous presence of Herald Petrels at breeding colonies is reported (Marchant & Higgins 1990). In the central Pacific, it is recorded as far north as 39°N with most observations from October to January (Gould 1983). During the same period, it has been recorded off Nowra and Sydney, NSW, and Burleigh Heads, Queensland, and in the Tasman Sea. This suggests that some birds follow the East Australia Current south from the Coral Sea during summer (King 1984; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The species has also been seen off Ballina, NSW (Izzard & Watson 1980) and in the Coral Sea away from Raine Island in May (Marchant & Higgins 1990; Stokes & Corben 1985). The latter record suggests that there are unrecorded breeding islands in the Coral Sea (King 1984), though post-juvenile dispersal is wide.

There is no information available specifically regarding survey techniques for the Herald Petrel. Herald Petrels have been recorded opportunistically from boats when birds were flying over the sea (Izzard & Watson 1980; McBride & Hobcroft 1994). They have also been recorded during boat trips specifically undertaken to survey sea birds in the Great Barrier Reef (Stokes & Corben 1985), and recorded at nests during visits by researchers who have landed on Raine Island (King 1984; King & Reimer 1991).

There is little information available about threats to the Herald Petrel. The small population of Herald Petrels is vulnerable to catastrophe, such as the accidental introduction of predators (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The small population size means the species is at high risk of extinction.

Other threats may result from human activity. Guano was harvested from Raine Island early in the 1900s, although the seabird colony is thought to have recovered without any ill-effects (King 1996). Disturbance to nesting birds, egg collection, persecution by fisherman, and accidental entanglement in fishing tackle, especially nets, are additional threats.

The predation of eggs and chicks by introduced mammals (e.g. foxes Canis vulpes, cats Felis catus, rats Rattus) may also be a threat to the species. Furthermore, gulls (Larus) often take the eggs and small chicks of nesting seabirds.

Other potential threats to the Herald Petrel are erosion of nesting habitat, due to wind and wave action, storms washing away nests, structural and floristic changes to vegetation, and competition for food from other marine species and commercial fisheries. Pollution (nutrient enrichment, toxic spills, e.g. oil, chemicals), and disease (Blakers et al. 1984; Brothers et al. 1996; Burbidge et al. 1996; Copley 1996; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Garnett & Crowley 2000; King 1996; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Norman et al. 1996) may also pose a risk to the population. It is not clear whether any of these additional seabird threats are applicable to the Herald Petrel.

The small colonies on Raine Island, and possibly on other cays in the Coral Sea, may be at risk from genetic inbreeding.

The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) provides a guide to threat abatement and management strategies for the Herald Petrel.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Commonwealth Listing Advice on Petrodroma heraldica (Herald Petrel) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002e) [Listing Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low genetic diversity and genetic inbreeding Pterodroma heraldica in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006sw) [Internet].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Commonwealth Listing Advice on Petrodroma heraldica (Herald Petrel) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002e) [Listing Advice].

BirdLife International (2004b). Pterodroma heraldica. IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [Online]. Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/49685/all. [Accessed: 26-Jul-2007].

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Brooke, M de L. & G. Rowe (1996). Behavioural and molecular evidence for specific status of light and dark morphs of the Herald Petrel Pterodroma heraldica. Ibis. 138:420-432.

Brothers, N., D. Pemberton, R. Gales & I. Skira (1996). The status of seabirds in Tasmania. In: Ross, G.J.B., K. Weaver & J.C. Greig, eds. The Status of Australia's Seabirds: Proceedings of the National Seabird Workshop, Canberra, 1-2 November 1993. Page(s) 181-183. Biodiversity Group, Env. Aust., Canberra.

Burbidge, A.A., R.E. Johnstone & P.J. Fuller (1996). The status of seabirds in Western Australia. In: Ross, G.J.B., K. Weaver & J.C. Greig, eds. The Status of Australia's Seabirds: Proceedings of the National Seabird Workshop, Canberra, 1-2 November 1993. Page(s) 57-71. Canberra: Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia.

Copley, P.B. (1996). The status of seabirds in South Australia. In: Ross, G.J.B., K. Weaver & J.C. Grieg, eds. The Status of Australia's Seabirds: Proceedings of the National Seabird Workshop, Canberra, 1-2 November 1993. Page(s) 139--180. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia, Canberra.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliot & J. Sargatal (1992). Ostrich to Ducks. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World. 1. Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005f). National Recovery Plan for Ten Species of Seabirds 2005-2010. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/seabirds.html.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Gould, P.J. (1983). Seabirds between Alaska and Hawaii. Condor. 85:286-291.

Izzard, J. & W.D. Watson (1980). A sight record of the Herald Petrel off northern New South Wales. Australian Birds. 15:5-6.

King, B.R. (1984). The Herald Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana heraldica breeding on Raine Island, Qld. Emu. 84:246-247.

King, B.R. (1996). The status of seabirds in Queensland. In: Ross, G.J.B., K. Weaver & J.C. Greig, eds. The Status of Australia's Seabirds. Page(s) 211-233. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia, Canberra.

King, B.R. & D.S. Reimer (1991). Breeding and behaviour of the Herald Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana on Raine Island, Queensland. Emu. 91:122-125.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume One - Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

McBride, A. & D. Hobcroft (1984). A Herald Petrel off Sydney, New South Wales. Australian Birds. 19:53-55.

Norman, F.I., P. Dann & P.W. Menkhorst (1996). The status of seabirds in Victoria. In: Ross, G.J.B., K. Weaver & J.C. Grieg, eds. The Status of Australia's Seabirds: Proceedings of the National Seabird Workshop, Canberra, 1-2 November 1993. Page(s) 185-200. Canberra: Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia.

Stokes, T. & C. Corben (1985). A survey of pelagic birds in the western Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef. Corella. 9:25-29.

Warham, J. (1996). The Behaviour, Population Biology and Physiology of the Petrels. London: Academic Press.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Pterodroma heraldica in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 21 Apr 2014 07:51:11 +1000.