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Predictive habitat modelling to estimate petrel breeding colony sizes: sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) and mottled petrels (Pterodroma inexpectata) on Whenua Hou Island

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 13:57 authored by Scott, D, Moller, H, Fletcher, D, Newman, J, Jagannath Aryal, Bragg, C, Charleton, K
Between 2001 and 2006, we systematically sampled the entire coast of Whenua Hou, a rugged offshore island in southern New Zealand, to estimate the population densities of sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) and mottled petrels (Pterodroma inexpectata) by counting the entrances of breeding burrows. A two-step regression modelling process using binomial errors was used to predict the presence of a colony, and a normal general linear model was used to predict the density of entrances within colonies. Aerial photography, GI S and a Digital Elevation Model were used to extract relevant habitat and location variables, and a combination of both regression models was used to predict the density of breeding burrows within each 5.32 m2 pixel on the island. This complex GIS and habitat prediction modelling approach gave population estimates very similar to a more traditional simple area extrapolation method and gave no improvement in precision. However, correction for the slope of the land increased our simple area estimates of population size by 11%. We estimate populations of sooty shearwater and mottled petrel breeding pairs at 173 000 (162 000–190 000) and 160 000 (123 000–197 000) respectively. Based on this number of breeding pairs, we calculate that Whenua Hou supports a total population of 868 000 (554 000–1 270 000) sooty shearwaters. Our estimate of the total mottled petrel population 202 000 pairs (162 000–242 000) is comparable with the only published estimate, but could be an underestimate because mottled petrels are sometimes found in large burrows. More research for robust estimation of population trends is needed to assess the conservation status of mottled petrels.


Publication title

New Zealand Journal of Zoology








School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Sir Publishing

Place of publication

Po Box 399, Wellington, New Zealand

Rights statement

Copyright 2009 The Royal Society of New Zealand

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other environmental management not elsewhere classified

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