Newsletter / Blog

Conservation success – Zino’s Petrel

The Zino's Petrel - Pterodroma Madeira – is endemic to the island of Madeira. It is Europe's most endangered seabird, restricted to a few ledges high in the central mountains of Madeira.

Zino's Petrel nests in burrows which are visited only at night, to the accompaniment of their haunting calls. The single white egg is incubated by both adults, one sitting during the day while the other feeds on fish and squid at sea. Eggs, chicks and adults have been subject to predation by introduced cats and rats, and in the past have been taken for food by local shepherds. Predator control, and other measures such as the removal of grazing animals which trample the burrows, has enabled the population to recover, thanks to efforts by the Natural Park of Madeira (PNM).

A ravaging fire hit the heart of Madeira’s central massif, where this endangered bird breeds in August 2010. The fire not only led to a near-complete breeding failure in 2010, but also exacerbated soil erosion, causing several nesting burrows to collapse.

The PNM developed an action plan with financial and logistical support from SPEA/BirdLife in Portugal, the RSPB/BirdLife in the UK and BirdLife International, about 100 natural nests were restored, while 60 new artificial nests were built. A protective cordon was also built around the known breeding areas, with cat traps and bait boxes. As the 2011 summer progressed, the news from Madeira got better – proof once again that adequate investment in conservation pays off. Monitoring of the breeding colony indicated that 45 nests were occupied – with eggs laid in 43 of them. Although breeding success was lower than before the fire, with only 19 nestlings hatching, the species’ prospects looked more positive again. Moreover, fledgling success was good, with 16 out of the 19 young birds eventually flying out to sea in October.

PNM and SPEA are now more hopeful for the future.


The Zino's Petrel - Pterodroma Madeira – is a  long-winged petrel. It has a grey back, grey wings with a dark "W" marking across them, and a grey upper tail. The undersides of the wings are blackish apart from a triangle of white at the front edge near the body, and the belly is white with grey flanks. The head has a mottled whitish-brown forehead, a dark cap, and a dark spot below and behind the brown eye. The bill is black and the legs are flesh pink, the colour continuing onto the first third of the feet, the rest of the toes and webs being black-brown.


A long mournful call like the hooting of a Tawny Owl and a much less frequent sound like the whimpering of a pup.


They feed on small squid and fish.


The birds return from sea to their breeding grounds in late March or early April. The nest is a shallow burrow in thick soil on vegetated ledges. The length of the burrow is related to the age of the pair that uses it, young birds making shorter tunnels, which are extended in subsequent years. The oval white egg is laid from mid-May to mid-June in a chamber at the end of the burrow and incubated for 51–54 days, each parent alternating between sitting on the nest and feeding at sea. The young fledge about 85 days later in late September and October. This petrel is strictly nocturnal at the breeding sites to avoid predation by gulls. It stays 3–5 km (2–3 mi) offshore during the day, coming to land in darkness.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a customized tour for you. 



Back Back to top

Follow JoSievers on TwitterCape Town Tourism

Kwikwap Website Consultant: Melanie

Hits to date: 2871284 This business website was developed using Kwikwap

Copyright © 2022 . All Rights Reserved.