WASHINGTON (CN) – After decades of delay, three species of tubenose petrels – one of them thought to be extinct for 100 years – will be listed as endangered. The seabirds live on the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere and come to land only to breed. They are called tubenosed because a salt gland in their nasal passages desalinates the seawater they drink; the salty waste is excreted from their nose.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service dithered for decades, claiming it had higher-priority candidates for the Endangered Species List than the peculiar petrels.
But the agency finally found that the Chatham petrel is endangered by competition with larger birds for burrowing sites to lay eggs, and the Fiji and Magenta petrels are endangered by non-native feral cats, rats and pigs that eat the eggs.
The Magenta petrel was thought to be extinct for 100 years, until it was rediscovered in 1978. From 1987, when the first breeding burrow was found, until 2006, only 63 fledglings are known to have hatched.
A 1980 petition from the International Council for Bird Preservation to add 60 foreign bird species to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife was the first attempt to get the petrels listed.
The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that the three petrel species warranted listing but put it off, due to by higher priorities, in 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, and 2004.
In December, 2007 Fish and Wildlife published a proposal to finally list the petrels as endangered, but did not issue a final determination until 2008, when the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue it.