Gould’s petrels breed on Broughton Island after 10 years

For the first time in a decade there’s evidence Gould’s Petrels have bred on Broughton Island near Port Stephens, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Director Hunter Central Coast Kylie Yeend said.

Gould's petrel chick, Broughton Island, with National Parks and Wildlife Service and Hunter Bird Observers Club representatives

The success is part of a program to restore seabirds to the island thanks to a collaboration between NPWS, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE Ecosystems and Threatened Species), the Hunter Bird Observers Club (HBOC) and Birdlife Australia.

Ms Yeend said the successful breeding of the threatened species is the result of a long-term project which began with the removal of pests in 2009.

“It’s very exciting news. After the removal of rats and rabbits, we began a second phase with a two-pronged approach. We started ‘sound attraction’, in which speakers broadcast bird noises continuously overnight, and installed nesting boxes,” she said.

“A baby Gould’s Petrel chick has now been found in a nesting box, showing that breeding is occurring on the island in response to our intervention. It’s encouraging to see habitat creation being utilised for successful breeding.”

In December 2018 the Gould’s Petrels started using the boxes, but it wasn’t until December last year that an adult was discovered incubating an egg in a nest box.

“It was sensational,” HBOC volunteer Alan Stuart said. “We’d found an egg in a December visit, and so as soon as we arrived last weekend in late January, we went straight up to see how things were going, and it was so exciting to look inside the nest box and see the chick.”

Since 2012 a total of 20 volunteer birdwatchers from HBOC have been part of quarterly visits to stay on Broughton Island for two nights to undertake bird monitoring for NPWS.

The money for the nest boxes and sound attraction equipment came from the general public sponsoring teams in the Twitchathon. This annual birdwatching competition donates sponsorship money to a different cause each year – and in 2016 it was Broughton Island seabirds.

In 2017 six nest boxes for Gould’s Petrels and eight for White-faced Storm Petrel’s were helicoptered to the island and installed.

Following this successful breeding event there may be more nest boxes installed to extend the habitat creation.

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