New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2001) 25(2): 71- 75

Use of burrow entrance flaps to minimise interference to Chatham petrel (Pterodroma axillaris) chicks by broad-billed prions (Pachyptila vittata)

Short Communication
Wendy Sullivan 1
Kerry-Jayne Wilson 1,2,*
  1. Ecological and Entomology Group, P.O. Box 84, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand
  2. Address for correspondence: 112 Centaurus Rd, Cashmere, Christchurch 2, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The Chatham petrel (Pterodroma axillaris) is an endangered species, restricted to a single population on South East Island, Chatham Islands. The key threat to breeding success is loss of chicks as a result of interference by broad-billed prions (Pachyptila vittata) prospecting for burrows for their oncoming breeding season. The effectiveness in decreasing interference using an artificial burrow entrance flap was investigated. The flap exploits behavioural differences between the species. Chatham petrels have a high incentive to push through a flap due to their investment in their burrow and chick, while prospecting prions are influenced by ease of access when searching for potential burrows. This trial found 90% of Chatham petrels entered their burrows through the artificial flap. Flaps acted as barriers to broad-billed prions, where 22% entered the burrow through the flap (P <0.01) compared to the control burrows. Artificial burrow flaps have the potential to provide a low cost, low labour strategy for protecting the known breeding population of Chatham petrels.