Wednesday 30 January 2013


The Storm Petrels (family Hydrobatidae) are small pelagic (offshore) birds  that appear only inland in exceptional circumstances. Three species of storm petrel have been recorded in Extremadura. One of them recently, the story of which appears on the personal blog  of Victor Manuel Quintana. A Leach's storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) was found on January 21, 2013 in Miajadas (Cáceres). The bird must have died after colliding with the walls of a factory. Here we show a photograph taken by V. M. Quintana from his blog, where you can see more images of this individual.

All records in Extremadura of petrels relate to birds found dead or very weak in urban areas after wind storms in the Atlantic. Apparently the birds had been carried by the wind inland where they become disoriented, perhaps being attracted by the lights of the towns. In this case, on January 19, two days before, there was an explosive cyclone with strong winds and rain. In April 2012 a similar one occurred, as reported in this blog, which was also associated with the arrival of seabirds.

The first record in Extremadura of a storm petrel dates back to February 15, 1970, when a first winter Madeiran storm petrel (Oceanodroma castro) was found dead in Badajoz city (J. Gómez-Tejedor). The second record was also a Maderian storm petrel: a bird ringed on January 28, 1995 in the colony  Farilhao Grande, Berlengas island (central Portugal), was found very weak on February 24, 1995 in Benquerencia de la Serena (Badajoz) and died the next day in a recovery center. Since being ringed only 27 days had elapsed and the distance travelled was 362 km (Oficina Anillamiento). This species breeds in winter in Macaronesia (in the archipelagos of Madeira, Azores and the Canary Islands) and a colony on Portuguese Iberian coast (Berlengas). Its taxonomy is being debated, with some authors include populations that breed in Cape Verde, in the South Atlantic and even in the Pacific. To complicate matters, there are two populations in the Azores, one breed in winter and other in summer, the latter being proposed as a separate species: the Monteiro's Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma monteiroi).

The third record of a storm petrel seen in Extremadura was of two European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) found, one dead and one wounded but died later, in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz) on November 6, 1997 (Juan Carlos Delgado). Of the three species mentioned it's the only storm petrel breeding on Spanish coasts, both Mediterranean and Atlantic.

The fourth record was this Leach's storm petrel, a species that breeds in the North Atlantic, both in America and in Europe. And anecdotally, the first sighting of European storm petrels in Madrid took place on January 1, 1999, when one fell from the shy onto a group of people waiting at the door of a nightclub for a New Years Eve party.