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Occurrence of Leach’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous near the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Brazil

Lucas Penna Soares Santos1* ORCID logo, Camila Brasilino Botêlho de Araújo2,3 , Marco Antonio Carvalho de Souza4 ORCID logo , Jorge Eduardo Lins Oliveira5 ORCID logo , Danielle de Lima Viana3 ORCID logo

1 Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Aves Silvestres/Núcleo de Gestão Integrada de Fernando de Noronha, Fernado de Noronha, Pernambuco, Brazil.

2 Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Animal, Centro de Biociências, Departamento de Zoologia, Cidade Universitária, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.

3 Laboratório de Oceanografia Pesqueira, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.

4 Secretaria da Comissão Interministerial para os Recursos do Mar, Brazil.

5 Laboratório de Biologia Pesqueira. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

Full paper


Storm-petrels demonstrate complex spatial dynamics, with some species moving among continents. We report a sighting of a Leach’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous, recorded on a scientific expedition near the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago (SPSPA), the smallest Brazilian oceanic islands. Our species identification was based on A) morphological characteristics (plumage pattern and pronounced forked tail), B) other records of this species surrounding the SPSPA, and C) tracking studies of the at-sea distribution of this species, especially that of North Atlantic populations that cross equatorial regions during their migration and non-breeding periods. This report comprises the second of two documented accounts of Leach’s Storm-petrel in SPSPA waters. These records highlight knowledge gaps in the spatial dynamics of seabird species, an increased understanding of which might provide novel insights into species biogeography.


Procellariiformes have large-scale spatial dynamics and travel long distances on migration, including trans-equatorial movements (Phillips et al. 2005; González-Solís et al. 2007). Tracking and banding/ringing data have revealed non-breeding movements that range from North America to oceanic basins in the Southern Hemisphere, with several sites being used regularly during migratory periods, including by Leach’s Storm-petrel Hydrobates leucorhous in the South Atlantic (Veit et al. 1996; Camphuysen 2007; Pollet et al. 2014, 2019). Knowledge of the migratory behaviour of oceanic birds can be complimented by site-based records, providing refined geographic distribution information, especially in remote areas.

Storm-petrels (i.e., Hydrobatidae and Oceanitidae) are oceanic birds that are widely distributed across oceanic basins and offshore areas (Brooke 2004). Their small sizes and subtle differences in their external plumages can lead to difficulties in differentiating between species whilst they are at sea (Flood et al. 2019; Taylor et al. 2019).

Leach’s Storm-petrel is a highly pelagic and migratory species that uses coastal areas and offshore islands to breed (Pollet et al. 2021). Several breeding colonies of Leach’s Storm-petrel in the north Atlantic Ocean are declining (Pollet & Shutler 2018; d'Entremont et al. 2020; Deakin et al. 2021) and resultingly, the species is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2018). In Brazil, this species is regarded as a non-breeding visitor (Pacheco et al. 2021).

Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the São Pedro e São Paulo Archipelago (SPSPA; 00°55’N 29°20’W) is a group of rocky islands c. 1,100 km east of the city of Natal, Brazil, and 520 km from the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (3°52’S 32°25’W; Edwards & Lubbock 1983). This island group occupies an area of c. 1.7 ha, with a maximum elevation of 18 m above sea level (Motta et al. 2018). Historically, the area was explored for fishing (Viana et al. 2008, 2015) and more recently, it was listed as a Marine Protected Area under two categories: Natural Monument (MONA; strict protection, 4,726 km2) and Environment Protection Area (APA; sustainable use, 40,705 km2). The SPSPA is considered an important breeding and feeding site for pelagic birds in the Central Equatorial Atlantic and it supports resident seabirds, such as a Brown Booby Sula leucogaster population (Barbosa Filho & Vooren 2010).

Here, we present a documentation of Leach’s Storm-petrels around the SPSPA. We compile information from a shipboard observation as well as that from a review of the literature and citizen- science data platforms (namely eBird, iNaturalist and WikiAves). We therefore evaluated records from within 200 km of the SPSPA using specimens, photographs or video records.


We are grateful for the Brazilian Navy crew (NPOc Araguari), specially the SECIRM and PROARCHIPELAGO Program, which provided helpful assistance to the research in the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago. We thank to P. P. Serafini, L. Bugoni, F. Olmos, R. Araujo, C. C. C. Guaitanele for guidance with this work and E. A. Herrera for translating it. This work was also supported by ICMBio, especially CEMAVE and NGI Noronha, and GEF-Mar Project.


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