by Eric Jolin, Canada’s New Noah

Banding (or “ringing”) my first bird! In this case, a red-tailed tropicbird.

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of the Canada’s New Noah program has been the opportunity to gain experience in aspects of wildlife biology that I’m unfamiliar with. I’ll be the first to admit that in my short conservation career, I’ve been extremely fortunate, and have had the opportunity to work with a whole range of weird and wonderful wildlife. However, there has always been one glaring hole in my experience: BIRDS! While I’ve gone on the occasional birding trip, I’d definitely consider myself an amateur at best.

Well, if there is one thing Round Island has in abundance, it’s birds. The island is home to the Indian Ocean’s largest colony of wedge-tailed shearwaters, possibly the largest of red-tailed tropicbirds, and one of the largest colonies of white-tailed tropicbirds. It is also the only known breeding ground of the Bulwer’s petrel in the Indian Ocean. Last, but certainly not least, we have the so-called ‘Round Island’ petrel. This peculiar population of petrels has been a major focus of the Round Island team for decades, in large part because biologists weren’t quite sure where to put it.

A banded Round Island petrel cares for its soon to hatch egg.

Originally identified as Trindade petrels, recent genetic work has shown that the Round Island population is actually a hybridizing population with at least two additional species: Kermadec and Herald petrels. Our team has been busy monitoring the nest sites of these unique birds, stealthily sneaking up on petrels before they flush out of their nests and out of our lives. Once captured, each bird is banded (or “ringed” as my British colleagues would say), weighed, and has their blood sampled for use in future genetic studies. In my opinion, it would be pretty difficult to find a better way to break into the wild world of avian studies.

These fast flyers make in-flight photographs a real challenge!
Round Island petrels displaying some of the different colour morphs the population can exhibit.

For more information on the Round Island petrel and an in-depth look at the research being conducted by PhD student Kirsty Franklin, please visit https://www.bou.org.uk/blog-franklin-round-island-petrel/

Eric releases a petrel on Round Island.