Archived 2016 topics: Leach’s Storm-petrel (Hydrobates leucorhous): uplist from Least Concern to Vulnerable?

BirdLife species factsheet for Leach’s storm-petrel:

The Leach’s storm-petrel has an extensive global range and breeding colonies are confined to the northern hemisphere, from the South Kuril Islands (Japan) round to Baja California (Mexico) including the Aleutian Islands, Alaska (USA) and Canada in the Pacific, and in northeastern North America, Iceland, northern United Kingdom and Norway in the Atlantic. Its global population was estimated to number > 20,000,000 individuals (Brooke 2004), but based on the compilation of available data the current population comprises 6.7-8.3 million breeding pairs; 40-48% of these breed in the Atlantic basin and 52-60% in the Pacific.

Although widespread in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, populations throughout the western Atlantic (>90% of basin total) are declining, including at Baccalieu Island, Newfoundland, Canada, which holds the species largest colony (Sklepkovych and Montevecchi 1989; Environment Canada, unpublished data). Although the trend of western North American and Russian populations are unknown, the compilation of available data collected from 1977 to 2016 representing 75-80% of the global population (including Europe, eastern North America, and Japan), points to a decline of ≥30% over three generations (39 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 13 years).

The cause(s) of declines are unknown, but are likely multi-faceted. Heavy predation by seabirds (skuas and gulls) and mammals occurs at some declining colonies in the eastern and western Atlantic (Phillips et al. 1997, 1999; Stenhouse et al. 2000; Votier et al. 2006) and tissue mercury concentrations in western Atlantic colonies are relatively high (Bond and Diamond 2009; Environment Canada, unpublished; Hedd et al. 2016). Annual adult survival rates are low (77-85%) throughout the western Atlantic, and are likely a key demographic driver of observed declines (Fife et al. 2015; Hedd et al. 2016). Also, foraging ranges during the breeding season overlapped with offshore oil and gas operations for 4 of 7 western Atlantic colonies; 3 of which have declined in recent decades (Pollet et al. 2014; Hedd et al. 2016; Hedd et al. in revision).

Based on the above evidence, the Leach’s storm-petrel would seem to warrant listing as Vulnerable under criteria A2bce+3bce+4bce.

Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding recent trends in western North America, Alaska, Europe and Russia, and any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.


Bond, A. L., and Diamond, A. W. (2009). Mercury concentrations in seabird tissues from Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, Canada. Science of the Total Environment 407:4340-4347.

Brooke, M. de L. (2004). Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Fife, D. T., I. Pollet, G. J. Robertson, M. L. Mallory, and D. Shutler. (2015). Apparent survival of adult Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) breeding on Bon Portage Island, Nova Scotia. Avian Conservation and Ecology 10:1.

Hedd, A., Pollet, I.L., Mauck, R.A., Bond, A.L., Burke, C.M., Fifield, D.A., Mallory, M., Tranquilla, L.A.M., Montevecchi, W.A., Robertson, G.J., Ronconi, R.A., Shutler, D., Wilhelm, S.I., Burgess, N.M. (2016) Investigating drivers of Leach’s storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa population decline in Atlantic Canada. 6th International Albatross and Petrel Conference. Page 101.

Hedd, A., Pollet, I.L., Mauck, R.A., Burke, C.M., Mallory, M.L., McFarlane Tranquilla, L.A., Montevecchi, W.A., Robertson, G.J., Ronconi, R.A., Shutler, D., Wilhelm, S.I., and Burgess, N.M. (in revision) Foraging Areas, Offshore Habitat Use and Colony Segregation by Incubating Leach’s Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma leucorhoa in the Northwest Atlantic. PLoS One (in revision)

Pollet, I.L., Ronconi, R.A., Jonsen, I.D., Leonard, M.L., Taylor, P.D., and Shutler, D. (2014) Foraging movements of Leach’s storm-petrels Oceanodroma leucorhoa during incubation. Journal of Avian Biology 45: 305-314.

Phillips, R.A., Catry, P., Thompson, D.R., Hamer, K.C., and Furness, R.W. (1997) Inter-colony variation in diet and reproductive performance of Great Skuas Catharacta skua. Marine Ecology Progress Series 152:285-293.

Phillips, R.A., Thompson, D.R., and Hamer, K.C. (1999) The impact of great skua predation on seabird populations at St Kilda: a bioenergetics model. Journal of Applied Ecology 36:218–232.

Sklepkovych, B. O., and W. A. Montevecchi. (1989). The world’s largest known nesting colony of Leach’s Storm-Petrels on Baccalieu Island, Newfoundland. American Birds 43:38-42.

Stenhouse, I. J., G. J. Robertson, and W. A. Montevecchi. (2000). Herring Gull Larus argentatus predation on Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa breeding on Great Island, Newfoundland. Atlantic Seabirds 2:35-44.

Votier, S.C., Crane, J.E., Bearhop, S., de Leon, A., McSorley, C.A., Minguez, E., Mitchell. I.P., Parsons. M., Phillips, R.A., Furness, R.W. (2006) Nocturnal foraging by great skuas Stercorarius skua: implications for conservation of storm-petrel populations. Journal of Ornithology 147: 405–413

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2 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Leach’s Storm-petrel (Hydrobates leucorhous): uplist from Least Concern to Vulnerable?

  1. Harry Carter says:

    See Carter, H.R., A.E. Burger, P.V. Clarkson, Y. Zharikov, M.S. Rodway, S.G. Sealy, R.W.
    Campbell, and D.F. Hatler. 2012. Historical colony status and recent extirpations of burrow-nesting seabirds at Seabird Rocks, British Columbia. Wildlife Afield 9:13-48. The colony of Leach’s Storm-Petrels at Seabird Rocks, one of only two on the SW coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, was recently extirpated by River Otters. Please email me to get a pdf of this paper.

  2. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.