Adult Black-capped Petrel ready to be equipped with a GPS tag

Ecology and conservation of the endangered Black-capped Petrel

A gadfly petrel endemic to the Caribbean, the Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) has a fragmented and declining population and is considered Endangered throughout its range. Population estimates based on at-sea observations range from 2,000 to 4,000 individuals, with a fragmented breeding population estimated at 500 to 1,000 pairs. While historical records and recent surveys suggest possible nesting populations in Cuba and Dominica, the only confirmed breeding areas are located on Hispaniola. 

The limited information on the movements of the species at sea limits our understanding of its marine habitat preferences and associated conservation threats. Therefore, we partnered with the Dominican NGO Grupo Jaragua, the American Bird Conservancy, and BirdsCaribbean to study the spatial and foraging ecology of Black-capped Petrels breeding in the Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic.

Research:

2014: First effort to deploy satellite tags on breeding Black-capped Petrels. The research was initiated at Lomo del Toro in the Dominican Republic. Our team tracked 3 breeding petrels with satellite tags from April to November 2014, representing the first tracking study for this species. 

Our article First satellite tracks of the Endangered black-capped petrel, Jodice et al (2015). Endang. Species. Res. is available in open-access.

An interactive map of the tracks can be found here. 

2018: Spatial and foraging ecology of chick-rearing Black-capped Petrels, Loma del Toro, the Dominican Republic. We deployed 9 remote-download GPS-loggers and collected fecal samples for a molecular analysis of diet. A preliminary report can be found on our Publications page. You can also read a blog of our expedition on BirdsCaribbean's website (part I, part II).

2019: Nesting habitat suitability analysis: we used environmental characteristics of known petrel nests to predict the suitability of petrel nesting habitat in Hispaniola. We then calculated the extent of predicted suitable habitat on Hispaniola, and the extent of habitat lost to forest loss since 2000.

Our article Habitat modelling locates nesting areas of the Endangered Black-capped Petrel, Satgé et al (2020). Bird Conserv. Inter. is available in open access.

         

          At-sea captures: in an unprecedented effort to record at-sea movements of Black-capped Petrels and attempt to locate unknown nesting areas, in May, we captured 11 Black-capped Petrels at sea offshore Cape Hatteras, NC, USA and outfitted 10 of them with solar-powered satellite transmitters. This study is in partnership with American Bird Conservancy, Seabirding Pelagic Cruises, and Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust.

Results and publications are upcoming. A peliminary map of the tracks can be found here.

2020: Range revision and extension: Between 2017-2019, ship-based surveys in the Gulf of Mexico (see our GoMMAPPS page) revealed a regular use of the Gulf of Mexico by Black-capped Petrels. We are using thee results to propose a revised marine range for the species. A publication is upcoming.

          2020 Conservation Plan: the International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group is currently revising the species' conservation plan. We support this initiative as co-author (Yvan Satgé) and reviewer (Patrick Jodice). Once published, we will share the plan document here. 

Education:

Our collaborators in the Dominican Republic and Haiti are leading education projects in communities living near petrel nesting areas. To support them in their work to raise awareness about the species, we designed educational posters of Black-capped petrel travels using the movement data from our 2014 study. Illustrations were graciously made by Noah Jodice

Click here to see the poster gallery.

Collaborators

Patrick Jodice, USGS South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Yvan Satgé, South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Ernst Rupp, Grupo Jaragua

Adam Brown, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean

Rob Ronconi, Canadian Wildlife Service

Jennifer Wheeler and the International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group

Hannah Nevins and Brad Keitt, American Bird Conservancy

Chris Gaskin, Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust

Recent publications

 

Satgé, Y.G., E. Rupp, A. Brown, and P.G.R. Jodice. 2020. Habitat modelling locates nesting areas of the Endangered Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata on Hispaniola and identifies habitat loss. Bird Conservation International, 1-18. DOI: 10.1017/S0959270920000490

 

Satgé, Y.G., E. Rupp, and P.G.R. Jodice. 2019. A preliminary report of ongoing research of the ecology of Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) in Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic – I: GPS tracking of breeding adults. Unpublished Report, South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA. DOI: 10.5066/P9UHASY4

Jodice, P.G.R., R.A. Ronconi, E. Rupp, G.E. Wallace, and Y. Satgé. 2015. First satellite tracks of the endangered Black-capped Petrel. Endangered Species Research 29:23-33. DOI 10.3354/esr00697

Funding provided by 

American Bird Conservancy, Mohammed bin Zayed Fund for Species Conservation, BirdsCaribbean Dave Lee Conservation Fellowship, Cary and David Paynter through the H. Smith Richardson Jr. Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Jeff Rusinow, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Stuart & Lynn White, BirdsCaribbean, the Neotropical Bird Club, Voltaic Systems.

More information

Research and conservation to benefit the Black-capped Petrel is also being conducted by Grupo Jaragua, Environmental Protection in the CaribbeanBirdsCaribbean, BirdLife International, Conservation Metrics Inc., Jeunes en Action pour la Sauvegarde de l'Ecologie en Haiti, and The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A recently published monograph on the ecology and conservation of the Black-capped Petrel is available as an open access article from Marine Ornithology. This work was authored by Ted Simons, Dave Lee, and Chris Haney.  

The International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group writes the conservation plan for Black-capped Petrel and its activities are wide-reaching and critical to the species' conservation. The 2012 Conservation Action Plan for the Black-capped Petrel can be found here.

You can learn more about the distribution and biology of the species (and all seabirds in the Caribbean) at the West Indian Seabird Breeding Atlas site.