Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pitcairn Islands 2016 - Pitcairn WWF Phoenix Petrel

ISSUE DATE: 6 July 2016
STAMP SIZE:35 x 29.4 mm
STAMP THEME: Pitcairn WWF Phoenix Petrel

The Phoenix petrel Pterodroma alba is considered to be a relatively rare and little known seabird of the tropical Pacific. It is a medium-sized tropical seabird, measuring up to 35 cm long, with a wingspan of around 83 cm. It has a dark greyish-brown upperparts plumage, white lower breast, belly and under tail and a whitish throat. Its bill is black and legs are pink. 


Found throughout oceans and coastal areas in the central Pacific, specific colonies are thought to be present on the Line and Phoenix Islands, Tonga, Kirimati (Christmas Island), Tuamotu, the Marquesas and Oeno in the Pitcairn Islands. The most recent study on Oeno was in 1998/9 where 10-20 pairs were observed. (Bell and Bell 1998, B. Bell verbally 1999).

Like several other tropical petrel species, the Phoenix petrel nests and breeds in colonies on the ground surface, rather than in a burrow. This is thought to be due to the absence of aerial predators (skuas, hawks, falcons and owls). These scrapes are found most often on coral atolls or volcanic islands.


The petrel feeds mainly on squid, supplemented by fish and crustaceans. It spends most of the time out to sea but does come ashore to breed, although there is no fixed breeding season. A single white egg is incubated by both parents, who also share care of the chick.

While population details are often uncertain, it appears this is now a scarce species, perhaps numbering only 10,000 breeding pairs and 30,000 individuals. Due to ongoing habitat loss, small population size, predation by invasive species (especially on the species stronghold Kirimati where rats have arrived) and human exploitation, the Phoenix petrel is evaluated as endangered on the IUCN Red List

Stamp images and description thanks to Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau

Pitcairn Islands Post Stamps