Seabird Diversity

Yellow-nosed Albatross- South Atlantic

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity.  The Yellow-nosed Albatross is a rare vagrant to the Western North Atlantic, we have seen only seen it once on our trips- February 5, 2000.  That bird was only about three miles off the beach with gulls and gannets.  A couple of Great Skuas were seen in the same area.  There have also been two spring records at Cape Hatteras (seen from shore), documented with photos April 11, 2004 and April 11, 2006.

Northern Fulmar- North Atlantic

The Northern Fulmar is a scarce to common transient off Cape Hatteras between October and May.  It can be very common during some winters and mostly absent other years.  Peak numbers are sometimes in March and April, even in years of scarcity.  Peak count-549 on March 14, 1998

Trindade Petrel- South Atlantic

The Trindade Petrel, previously lumped with the Herald Petrel, formerly known as the South Trinidad Petrel, is a rare visitor off of Cape Hatteras between May and September and could occur at other months.  The Trindade Petrel nests at Trindade, off the coast of Brazil.  Peak Count- 6 individuals on May 23, 2007.  Some years we have a good spring passage, while other years this species can be completely absent near the shelf break.  It seems to be slightly more reliable in July and August, but it is generally quite rare most years.  Chances for seeing it seem to increase substantially during or immediately following a period of onshore winds or swell.

Fea’s Petrel- Eastern Atlantic

Fea’s Petrel might comprise two cryptic species, with one nesting on the Desertas Islands near Madeira and the other nesting in the Cape Verde Islands.  The occurrence of the two forms in the Western North Atlantic is not well understood and all sightings off Cape Hatteras refer to “Fea’s Petrel” which could be either form.  We have records from May 14 to September 21 in 2008, with the main influx from May to early July.  Peak Counts- 4 to 5 May 20, 2008; 3 June 19, 2005 and 3 on June 4, 2004.

Zino’s Petrel- Madeira

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity.  Zino’s Petrel is a critically endangered seabird nesting only in the highlands of Madeira.  It is probably a rare visitor to the Western North Atlantic.  It could occur year round, with non-breeders in the spring and summer and dispersed breeders from fall to early spring.  A bird we photographed on September 16, 1995 appears to be a Zino’s Petrel, but was not identified as such at the time.  Tracking studies could reveal more about its westward dispersal.

Bermuda Petrel- Bermuda

The Bermuda Petrel, or Cahow, as it is called in Bermuda is a critically endangered seabird known only to nest around Castle Harbor, Bermuda.  The population in 2011 was 98 nesting pairs, up from a low of 18 pairs in 1951.  Bermuda Petrel is a rare visitor here, probably year round, but our sightings to date are all between May 21 and September 22.  Peak Count- 3 May 29, 2009.

Black-capped Petrel- West Indies

The Black-capped Petrel is the seabird synonomous with the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras.  Presently it is known only to nest in the mountains of Hispaniola and there is not a good population estimate.  Certainly it has declined greatly over the last couple of hundred years and it has been extirpated on some islands where it once nested.  It might also nest on Cuba, Jamaica, and Dominica, but more field work is need to determine that.  There have not been any tracking studies to date, but sighting data from the last 40 years suggest most at sea dispersal is to the Gulf Stream with a core of concentration off the Southeastern U.S.  It is probably present 365 days a year off Cape Hatteras.  Daily counts vary greatly from less than 10 per day to low hundreds.  There seems to have been a decline in numbers since the mid 1990’s and this species is known to suffer high mortality in major landfalling hurricanes.  Peak Count-593 in 1997 ; Low Count-0 in 2012

Bulwer’s Petrel- Eastern Atlantic

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity. Bulwer’s Petrel is a rare vagrant to the Western North Atlantic.  Single birds were seen off the Outer Banks on July 1, 1992 and August 8, 1998.  The latter bird was photographed on the same day a Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel was photographed about 40 miles south of Hatteras Inlet.

Cory’s Shearwater- Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean

Cory’s Shearwater might comprise two species, with the larger form, called Cory’s by the splitters, nesting in the Atlantic and the smaller form which is the nominate in latin, but called Scopoli’s, nesting mostly in the Mediterranean.  Identification to these form is is not always possible because of individual variation.  Both types occur off Cape Hatteras and it seems that “Scopoli’s” is best found from July to October, while “Cory’s” is usually found in good numbers during the spring and early summer as well as the fall.  Cory’s in the all inclusive sense occurs from mid May to mid November, with the largest numbers generally in August and September.  High Count-6,219 in 1999 ; Low Count-1 on some spring trips

Cape Verde Shearwater- Cape Verde Islands

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity. The Cape Verde Shearwater, formerly lumped with Cory’s, is an endemic seabird of the Cape Verde Islands.  We have one well documented record to date- August 15, 2004.  Pior to that, a bird fitting the description of CVS was seen in a large flight of shearwaters from Cape Hatteras in June 1993.

Great Shearwater- South Atlantic

The Great Shearwater, formerly known as Greater in the U.S., is a scarce to common visitor to water off Cape Hatteras.  It has occurred year round, but the largest influx is typically during June and July.  Most Great Shearwaters disperse farther northward into colder North Atlantic waters, but good numbers can be present through the summer if good feeding conditions persist.  During the late spring and early summer, there is sometimes heavy mortality of young Greats if they face starvation on their first northward dispersal.  High Count-753 in August 1997 ; Low Counts-1 on some spring trips

Sooty Shearwater- South Atlantic

Off the Southeastern US coast, Sooty Shearwater is mostly a spring transient moving through during a brief period in mid May to early June.  Numbers vary greatly from year to year depending on weather.  If there is little or no onshore wind during the spring migration, Sooties will pass hundreds of miles to the east of our coastline.  When onshore bring the flight closer, it is often best seen from shore near Cape Hatteras, particularly along the south shore.  SS is very rarely seen here during the summer, but it is a rare visitor in the late fall and winter months.  The concentration of Sooty Shearwaters that summers in the colder North Atlantic makes a fall passage way to the east.  High Count-166 in May 2009 ; Low Counts-

Manx Shearwater- North Atlantic

The stronghold of the Manx Shearwater is in Wales, but an increasing number of birds seem to be nesting in the Gulf of Maine and Canadian Maritimes.  Consequently Manx Shearwater is now easier than ever to find off Cape Hatteras, but most of the time it remains a scarce visitor.  Like the Black-capped Petrel, Manx Shearwater probably occurs here 365 days a year, but the best time is usually from mid March to mid June.  It can be fairly regular sometimes in winter too.  It should be carefully looked for whenever there are moderate to large flocks of shearwaters, and it is sometimes seen from shore during flights of Sooties.  High Count-60 to 100 individuals in March 2006 ; Low Counts

Audubon’s Shearwater- West Indies

The population of Audubon’s Shearwater is declining at an alarming rate.  It was once a very common bird here, especially during the summer.  Audubon’s Shearwater is a Gulf Stream specialty species and its distribution is closely tied to the Sargassum community, but it often occurs in mixed flocks with Cory’s and Great Shearwaters and Sooty Terns over schools of tuna.  Audubon’s Shearwater can occur year round, but it is very rare in winter.  It is seldom missed on trips from mid May to mid October, but it can be surprisingly scarce even during the historic peak periods of August and September.  High Count-1173 in August 1995; Low Count-

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel- Southern Ocean

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel is one of the most numerous bird species on Earth.  Off Cape Hatteras is can be expected from April to October.  The peak passage in the Gulf Stream is usually during May and June.  In August it can become fairly scarce in the Gulf Stream, yet it remains quite common in slightly cooler shelf break and slope waters immediately to the north and west of the stream.  There are a few records from November and December.  During spring, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel is fairly common close to shore, but by summer, they are mainly found from the shelf break seaward.  High Count-1,208 in August 2005 : Low Counts

White-faced Storm-Petrel- Eastern Atlantic

WFSP is a rare visitor to waters off North Carolina, with comparatively few records from the Gulf Stream proper.  WFSP seems to prefer cooler shelf break and slope waters to the north and west of the Gulf Stream (usually to the north and east of Oregon Inlet.)  It has been found here from mid July to mid October, with August and September being the peak months.  We have never seen more than one per day, but 2 were collected out of 4 seen by a party from the NCSM on August XX, 198X on a trip from Oregon Inlet.

European Storm-Petrel- Northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean

ESP, formerly known as the BSP, was undocumented off the eastern US until 2003.  Since then, we have photographed at least XX individuals, mostly (all?) presumably first summer birds.  So it is now known to be a rare but regular vagrant and has been seen annually in late May and early June, when we have run a program of daily trips for about two weeks since 2006.  It has almost always been seen as a result of persistent chumming and sometimes lingers around a slick for several minutes.  High Counts- ;

Black-bellied Storm-Petrel- Southern Ocean

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity.  The BBSP was first recorded on in the WNA on one of our trips on May 31, 2004.  Since then we have found and photographed it three more times.  July XX, 2006; June XX, 2007; August 14, 2010.  The first records from the eastern North Atlantic (Madeira and Canary Islands) were made in summer 2011.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel- North Atlantic

LSP is primarily a spring transient and early summer visitor to the Gulf Stream off CH.  Numbers can vary greatly, but it is generally rare to scarce even during peak passage.  It is seldom seen after mid July.  High Counts; Low Counts- 0.

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel- Eastern Atlantic

BRSP is now thought to comprise several cryptic species, with four of these nesting in the North Atlantic.  Careful observation and photography of numerous birds suggests at least two of these forms are regular off Cape Hatteras.  The commonly encountered type is thought to be the as yet undescribed winter breeding form, provisionally known as Grant’s Storm-Petrel.  There has also been a scarce spring passage of a slightly smaller, slimmer form, which could be the summer breeding Madeiran form.  The summer nesting Azorean birds- Monreiro’s Storm-Petrel, which has a rather small population should also be looked for.  The Cape Verde form could also occur.  Identification criteria for all of these forms is still being worked out.  The basis for deductions so far has been molt timing.  By summer it is not so easy to see differences because the Grant’s have finished their primary molt.  BRSP’s begin to arrive here in late May and are seldom seen by late August.  High Counts- ; Low Counts-

Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel- Eastern Atlantic?

Vagrant.  Mega-Rarity.  SWP remains an enigmatic species in the Atlantic.  There are no known breeding colonies, yet has occurred at several sites in the Eastern Atlantic and a single bird has been captured repeatedly? Over a period of XX years at a site on the Selvagems!  Four records here, three documented with photos.  August XX, 1993 off Oregon Inlet; August 8, 1998, June 2, 2008, June X, 2009 all off Hatteras Inlet.  No other records in the WNA.