American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Tahiti Petrel – North Carolina

Arguably one of the most extraordinary finds in recent memory, Peter Flood, spotting as part of Brian Patteson’s Seabirding crew found an ABA Code 4 Tahiti Petrel in the Gulf Stream out of Hatteras, North Carolina, yesterday (5/29), though with pelagic birding it might be more accurate to say that the petrel found them. In any case, pending acceptance, this is both a state and ABA Continental 1st record, and quite possibly a first for the Atlantic Ocean.

Tahiti Petrel was bound to turn up in the ABA Continental area at some point, but no one could have predicted it would be in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Kate Sutherland/Macaulay Library

Patteson’s Seabirding tours are based in Hatteras, North Carolina and offer the closest proximity to the Gulf Stream on the east coast. Their reputation for finding continental rarities is exceptional, particularly during the “spring blitz”, 2.5 weeks of back-to-back trips to the Gulf Stream in late May and early June aboard Patteson’s Stormy Petrel II.

Tahiti Petrel is a fairly common species of the tropical Pacific, breeding on a number of island groups in the area including its namesake Tahiti. It ranges widely, and is seen regularly as far east as the western coast of Costa Rica and southwest Mexico. This North Carolina bird would represent the 1st ABA Continental record as the inclusion of Hawaii added Tahiti Petrel to the main ABA Checklist by virtue of that state’s 4-5 accepted records, none more than 185 km asea, save one that landed on a ship 2 km off Nawiliwili Harbor, Kaua’i.

While Tahiti Petrel has been on the radar of California pelagic birders for some time, the most unexpected aspect of this sighting is that the 1st continental record of this species would come from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s unclear how the bird could have made its way from the south Pacific to western Atlantic, but it’s clear that it did, and we’re all a little more in awe of the abilities of seabirds to move around the globe because of it.