Two subspecies are recognized:
P. n. neglecta - western and central Pacific
P. n. juana - Juan Fernandez Islands off Chile (Mas Atierra, Santa Clara) also San Ambrosio Island and San Felix Island.
A relatively large, chunky Pterodroma. Broader wings than tropical shearwaters such as Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Upperparts appear brown or blackish-brown depending on light.
The dark medium-sized pterodroma present significant identification challenges, especially when observed out of their normal range. Potential confusion species are dark-morph Herald Petrel (P. arminjoniana), dark morph Murphy's Petrel (P.ultima), Kerguelen Petrel (P. brevirostris), Solander's Petrel (P. solandri) and Grey-faced/Great-winged Petrel (P. macroptera). Kermdec Petrels occur in both light, intermediate and dark color phases and an old name for the species was 'Variable Petrel'.
Perhaps the key diagnostic are the pale bases to the underwing primary feathers forming a characteristic cresent shaped marking. On the upperwing, the presence of pale primary shafts rules out the fairly similar Herald Petrel.
Generally solitary at sea but nests in colonies.
Flight more leisurly than other Pterodroma, often wheels on stiff wings,
reminiscent of a gliding gull.
Where and When
Breeds on atolls and rock islets across the South Pacific (25-30 degrees S), including the Jan Fernandez, Lord Howe (Ball's Pyramid), Kermadec, Austral, Pitcairn and Easter Island groups. Nests are located in rock crevices under ferns and shrubs. Many remain all year in the waters around Kermadec Island (1000 km NE of New Zealand), which holds the largest breeding colony, estimated at 5-10,000 pairs (Merton 1970).
Non-breeders may wander into the North Pacific and there are several records for the Hawaiian Islands (Kure Atoll April 1923, 6+ along the 158 degree W meridian in November 1976, a single bird in Northwestern Hawaiian waters on November 3rd 1984 and at least one bird frequented Kaua'i, Hawai'i in the summers of 1998, 1999 and 2000. Thus it seems probable that Kermadec Petrel is a regular visitor to waters around the central and Northern Pacific. Occurs as a regular visitor off eastern Australia (New South Wales), and New Zealand (Kaikoura). Presumably these include birds that breed on Lord Howe Island (Australia) and Henderson Island (New Zealand). Has been recorded in Japan.
Eggs are laid in October through to February, and it has been suggested that are two independent breeding seasons, reminiscent of a number of other tropical seabirds.
Many thanks to Lysle Brinker for allowing me to
use his photographs.
Bailey, S. F., P. Pyle, and L. B. Spear (1992) Dark Pterodroma petrels in the North Pacific: identification, status, and North American occurrence. American Birds 43: p400-415.
Merton, D.V. (1970) Kermadec Islands expedition reports: a general account of birdlife. Notornis 17:147-199.
Veitch, C. R. (1998) Breeding season of Kermadec Petrels (Pterodroma neglecta neglecta) at Meyer Islands, Kermadec Group, New Zealand. Notornis 45:67-69.