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#ABArare – Kermadec Petrel – California

On Friday September 8, Adam Searcy and others discovered a ABA Continental 1st Kermadec Petrel circling Southeast Farallon Island off San Francisco, California. This is a potential 1st record for California and the 1st record of this species away from Hawaii.

The Farallon Islands are a cluster of small islands and sea stacks due west of San Francisco, and is home to the largest colony of nesting seabirds in the contiguous United States. Southeast Farallon Island is the only inhabited island, manned by researchers from Point Blue and USFWS. Though observers cannot reach the islands themselves, a number of whale-watching and pelagic birding outfits from San Francisco and Half moon Bay frequently visit the waters around the islands. It is possible that this Kermadec Petrel may linger around the seabird colony long enough for birders to find it again.

Kermadec Petrel is heavy-set Pterodroma petrel that breed primarily on islands around New Zealand, but also on Juan Fernandez Island off the coast of Chile. It is an infrequent visitor to the Hawaiian Islands in the ABA Area. This species has figured in birding lore in North America before, where a mystery Pterodroma, identified by some as a Kermadec Petrel was photographed at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, in 1959 following the passage of Hurricane Gracie. The sighting was was accepted, but later reversed. More recently it has been suggested that that bird was the similar, and probably more likely, Trindade Petrel, but is considered unidentifiable.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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  • Mark Brown

    What a bruiser of a petrel!
    More pictures: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39075182 .
    There was a prior possible Kermadec Petrel in Southern California:
    A dark Pterodroma showing white shafts on the upper sides of the primaries at 32ø10’N-123ø30’W on Apr. 25 1989 (BR) was felt to be a dark morph Kermadec Petrel (Pterodroma neglecta).
    https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/nab/v043n03/p00443-p00542.pdf
    Thanks for posting the link to the Wilson Bulletin article about the Pennsylvania bird. The ABA should be given credit for calling this 2017 sighting in 1996. While not accepting the 1959 Kermadec Petrel Pennsylvania record you said “the species may yet appear off the Pacific coast of the continental US.”.
    http://listing.aba.org/checklist/ccr1992.pdf .
    Tove 2005 although says that Herald Petrels also have white inner webs and primary shafts..
    https://notornis.osnz.org.nz/system/files/Notornis_52_1_56.pdf .
    From a place of a complete lack of gadfly petrel identification knowledge why could not the 1989 and 2017 California birds be Herald or Henderson Petrel?
    More reading:
    https://www.aba.org/birding/v36n6p586.pdf .
    http://www.pabirds.org/PABIRDS/BackIssues/PBV11N1.pdf .

    • Matt Brady

      Per Howell’s 2012 “Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America”, dark morph Herald and Henderson Petrels are indistinguishable from each other, and are separable from Kermadec by “relatively broader wings (of Kermadec)…shorter, less graduated tail…upperwings of Kermadec have white primary shafts….underwings of darkest Heralds have dark to dull silvery bases of primaries and primary coverts; conversely, underwings of dark Kermadecs typically have bold white flashes on primaries and primary coverts…and some (Kermadecs) have whitish around the base of the bill, including a “noseband” across the lores.”

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