Decline in the distribution and abundance of flesh-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) on Lord Howe Island, Australia

David Priddel, Nicholas Carlile, Peter Fullagar, Ian Hutton, Lisa O'Neill

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54 Citations (Scopus)


The flesh-footed shearwater (Puffinus carneipes) is a migratory seabird that ranges widely across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The principal breeding populations are in Australia and New Zealand. The only breeding site in eastern Australia is on Lord Howe Island. Despite it being afforded a high level of legislative protection, the population on Lord Howe Island has declined substantially during the last few decades. The total extent of nesting habitat in 2002 was 24.3 ha, a reduction of 13.4 ha (35.6%) since 1978. Loss of nesting habitat was associated with increased urbanisation, the adverse impact of which extended beyond the footprint of buildings and gardens. In 2002, overall burrow density was 0.123 per m2 and the total number of burrows was estimated to be 29,853 ± 5867, a decline of about 19.0% since 1978. A substantial decline in burrow density was evident in the colony where loss of habitat to urbanisation had been greatest. In 2002, 58% of burrows were occupied by breeding birds, and the total population size was estimated to be 17,462 breeding pairs. Breeding success (the proportion of eggs that produced fledglings) was 50%, but was lowest in the most urbanised colony. To avert further declines in the population of flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe Island major changes in land use practices, enforced through appropriate legislation, are needed, together with reductions in the level of seabird bycatch in fisheries operations and in the amount of plastics that litter the world's oceans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-424
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

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