Media BBC Great Skua vs Leach's storm petrol

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Media BBC Great Skua vs Leach's storm petrol
From: "storm" <>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 21:43:39 +1100
I'd be thinking this kind of problem is going to occour more



For some time there has been concern that the population of Leach's
storm petrels on the islands of St Kilda was falling fast.

Another species of sea bird - the great skua or bonxie - was blamed
for eating tens of thousands of petrels.

But both populations are internationally important.

So Glasgow University PhD student Will Miles was asked to solve the
conundrum - what do you do when one species you want to protect is
flourishing at the expense of another species which is just as

After three years work he had just completed his thesis.

And there is some good news, some bad news, and a new mystery to

The good news is the population of bonxies has peaked.

At the same time, there are more petrels than had been predicted.

Will Miles said that means "the conservation dilemma is slightly less

The bad news is the bonxies are taking even more petrels than had been

"We've estimated the predation rate to be round about 20,000 birds a
year," Mr Miles explained.

"That is extremely high," he added.

      few years.

In fact, it's so high it could wipe the petrels out within a

Will Miles said: "The Leach's storm petrel population would go extinct
really quickly, if there wasn't an input of birds from elsewhere."

And that is the mystery. Where exactly are those extra birds coming

They could be from very large breeding populations in Iceland, or

Researchers at the University of Plymouth hope to use DNA testing to
answer that question.

In the meantime, Mr Miles says it would be a good idea to try to
comprehensively survey Leach's storm petrel numbers on the islands of
the St Kilda archipelago to establish exactly what is going on.

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