BLACK-CAPPED PETREL } Pterodroma hasitata

FAMILY: Procellariidae

DESCRIPTION: The black-capped petrel is a medium-sized seabird with a blackish-brown cap and collar, blackish-brown upperparts and a primarily white underside. It has long, black-framed wings and pink feet.

RANGE: Limited breeding range in the Caribbean Islands with current nesting colonies found only in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; foraging range in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of North Carolina to Florida, particularly in the Gulf Stream, and in the Caribbean Sea off the coasts of Panama and Colombia

HABITAT: Black-capped petrels nest in earthen burrows in steep cliffs on Caribbean islands. They forage in tropical and subtropical waters of the western North Atlantic Ocean, and particularly in the Gulf Stream.

MIGRATION: The migration range extends from foraging areas in North Carolina and Florida to their breeding grounds in Haiti and the Dominican Republic during the wintertime.

BREEDING: Breeding pairs produce a clutch size of one egg per breeding season, which occurs between November and mid-May. Most black-capped petrels breed five to seven years after birth.

LIFE CYCLE: Black-capped petrels can live 40 or more years.

FEEDING: This species of bird typically feeds upon squid, fish, and sargassum algae on the upper surface of the ocean.

THREATS: Offshore oil drilling, hunting, habitat degradation, invasive predators in its nesting areas. Lights, towers, rigs and other human-created infrastructure are major threats to the bird; these structures serve as collision threats for the birds, which fly at high speeds during the night. Deforestation, agricultural modification, fires, and charcoal harvesting in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are having detrimental impacts on the birds' remaining nesting habitat.

POPULATION TREND: Once thought to be extinct, the species currently consists of an estimated 600-2,000 breeding pairs of black-capped petrels that nest in Hispaniola. A 1981 survey of black-capped petrels found 165 breeding pairs at a site in the Dominican Republic. By 1990 the numbers of breeding pairs at that location dropped to only five, reflecting the severity of the species' decline. Historically black-capped petrel breeding sites were believed to exist in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique, but current colonies are found only on Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

Black-capped petrel photo courtesy Flickr/Patrick Coin