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Westland Petrel

Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica)

Westland Petrel
Breeds only in New Zealand in the coastal foothills near Punakaiki on the South Island's West Coast. They are a winter breeding species. The large Westland petrel (weighing over one kilogram), make a dramatic sound as they crash through the native forest to access there burrows in the soil on the forest floor. The second largest species of petrel to nest in burrows. The birds large size and burrow nesting habits possibly explains why they have survived on the New Zealand mainland, while many other petrels have been exterminated by predators such as cats, rats, ferrets and wild pigs. The population of Westland petrels has trebled in the last three decades, possibly due to the food scraps available to the birds from the hoki fishery on the West Coast. They do not start breeding until they are 12 years old, so they are probably a long-lived species. Traditionally harvested by Maoris as a muttonbird in the past. Also used as a food source by European settlers on the West Coast.

Westland petrels can be seen off the Kaikoura coast throughout the year with peak numbers in spring. Westland petrels can be seen close to the shore, within a mile or so. They are a distinctively plump large black coloured petrel, which comes much closer inshore along the Kaikoura coastline than the similar (and closely related) white-chinned petrel. Groups of up to a hundred birds can be seen together on the water to the south of Kaikoura Peninsula. Flocks of Westland petrels can be seen sitting on the water, floating high in the water, resembling large black ducks.