New Zealand Storm Petrels, Eastern Australia

March 28, 2010 — May 6, 2012

In the last two days, on the SOSSA pelagic out of Ulladulla and off Port Stephens pelagic (both quite close to the the shelf-edge off Australia), observers were treated to encounters with New Zealand Storm Petrels. This species was only rediscovered in northern NZ in 2003, after an absence of 150 years from the scientific record.

The conditions that swept these birds to our coastline appear to be driven by a very strong East Australian Current. There is a very large warm-core eddy sitting offshore eastern Australia. This is driving a narrow band of hot water south, whilst at the same time, a cold-core eddy to the south is squeezing nutrient-rich water against its edge. The Port Stephens bird was seen along the edge of a strong cold-water upwelling, close to the coast. This is caused as the warm-core eddy drags surface water offshore, so nutrient-rich cold water comes up from below. The Ulladulla bird was seen further south, on the inside edge of the cold-core eddy. Further south, off Eden, these are the exact same conditions that every year, herald the appearance of Sperm Whales, which were also seen off Ulladulla.
 New Zealand Storm Petrel off Port Stephens  New Zealand Storm Petrel off Ulladulla
Approximate position of New Zealand Storm Petrels off Ulladulla, about 45 miles offshore. Read more.
 New Zealand Storm Petrel

A New Zealand Storm Petrel was seen well and photographed on the Southport Pelagic today.

Read more.
 New Zealand Storm Petrel, Portland Pelagic

This follows recent sightings off Queensland this year:

Read more.


Seabirds 1 species
New Zealand Storm Petrel (Fregetta maoriana) 5



Simon Mustoe on March 30, 2010 about New Zealand Storm Petrels, Eastern Australia

The suggestion of an increase in numbers [of NZ stormy] is a little bit of a red-herring I think. I would not be comfortable suggesting that NZSP numbers are increasing, and that this is therefore the reason for them being sighted in Australia, or anywhere else for that matter. There is nothing that would suggest any detectable increase in the number of NZSP we are seeing in the Hauraki Gulf since 2003/2004.

Simon Mustoe on March 30, 2010 about New Zealand Storm Petrels, Eastern Australia

A New Zealand Storm-Petrel was seen on the Western Pacific Odyssey on 8 April 2008 about 15 miles south of New Caledonia (per Mike Carter, Jeff Davies). This begs the question whether the bird does actually breed in NZ, which has never been proven. It is arguable whether the birds off eastern Australia now, are heading north to breed or would return south to breed.

Written by

Bird-O Admin

Make a Travel Enquiry

FREE e-Magazine

Help Us Avoid Spam. What is this? FISH or DOG?