New face makes history on Montague

CLUCKY staff at the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were delighted to find a fluffy and healthy Gould’s petrel chick in a nest on Montague Island this month, a first in recorded history.

NPWS shorebird recovery coordinator for the Far South Coast Amy Harris says pest and weed control programs on islands are having incredible outcomes for native birds.

“Gould’s petrels lay a single egg and, if the egg is lost, they do not re-lay that season, so discovering such a healthy chick is a marvellous find,” Dr Harris said.

“Pairs are also highly monogamous and will usually return to the same nest site to breed, so we hope this chick will fledge in April and return in a few years when it matures.

“Long-term work on Montague Island has eradicated rodents, rabbits and goats here, and we are controlling weeds including kikuyu grass, which entangles burrowing nesting birds like Gould’s petrels.”

Dr Harris said Montague Island was now the fourth known breeding site for Gould’s petrels. The others are Cabbage Tree Island, Boondelbah Island and Broughton Island. She said conservation efforts hundreds of kilometres apart were delivering widespread results.

“In addition to pest and weed programs on Montague Island, staff and volunteers have planted thousands of native plants since it was declared a nature reserve in the 1980s.

“Clearly the habitat is recovering because in addition to this Gould’s petrel nest, we also found around 50 pairs of white-faced storm petrels this season.

“These birds are not endangered, but also had not previously been recorded on the island.

“Habitat rehabilitation on Montague Island harnesses the efforts of NPWS and OEH staff as well as dedicated volunteers who are empowered to care for their local environment.”

Gould’s petrels are the only species ever to be downgraded on the threatened species list from endangered to vulnerable. There are now an estimated 800 to 1000 pairs, which had decreased to about 200 pairs in the 1990s.

Office of Environment and Heritage threatened species experts identified a breeding pair of Gould’s petrels on the island late last year. 

This marked the first time the species had been spotted there in recorded history.

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