The Fiji Petrel went extinct 130 years ago. But then it got better.

The last wild Fiji petral specimen collected, an albatross-like bird (as petrels tend to be) that spends much of its time over the open sea, was collected in 1855 fro Gau Island, Fiji.

It didn’t really go extinct, because in 1984 one was caught on Gua, photographed, and set free. Subsequently, possible Fiji petrel sightings have occurred now and then, mostly of disoriented or lost immature birds that showed up in one village or another.

So, as you can see, calling this bird truly extinct was never really appropriate, but it was listed as one of nearly 200 birds that may or may not have been extinct at any given moment, with a very small hope returning every now and then wiht a possible or confirmed sighting. But then scientists went out and got serious bout finding some Fiji petrels and assessing their status.

They did this by setting up a lure consisting of 10 kilogram blocks of fish guts mixed with concentrated fish oil. This substance can be smelled by a petrel from half way around the planet. Well, not really but from very far away. Sure enough, on day two of the experiment, a Fiji petrel showed up to inspect one of the blocks which was floating around int he water. Over the next eleven days eight different individuals were observed.

The story is reported here.

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0 thoughts on “The Fiji Petrel went extinct 130 years ago. But then it got better.

  1. Wonderful. Here’s a bird that I knew nothing about. I guess there have never been very many of them. I hope that one or two nesting grounds can be discovered and protected. Or maybe it’s better if we don’t know where they nest. When I heard about the new species discovered in a volcanic crater, I wondered if the people living around there will now bother to go in and hunt them. Their days could be numbered.

  2. “Chumming” eh? Fair enough. When first re-discovered on the 1984 expedition the petrel flew into Dick Watling’s head while they were spotlighting. Dick was a university chum of mine and at the time had a head of wild curly hair so at least it would have had a soft landing.

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