Changes to the British List (17 June 2022)

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following to the British List.

The following species has been added to Category A of the British List:

Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira
One, first-calendar-year or older, ~3.2 km south of Bishop Rock Lighthouse, Isles of Scilly, 30 July 2020.

Photo (right) © Danni & Zac Hinchliffe

Zino’s Petrel is the rarest seabird in Europe, with just a few hundred birds breeding on Madeira, Portugal. The closely related Desertas Petrel P. deserta breeds nearby on Bugio, Desertas Islands, with Fea’s Petrel P. feae breeding further away across the Cape Verde archipelago.

Recently, geolocator tracking has demonstrated that both Zino’s and Desertas Petrels can move north from Madeira into the North Atlantic, while Fea’s Petrels typically remain closer to the Cape Verde islands (Birding World 24: 216-219, Diversity and Distributions 23: 794-805).

Most years small numbers of Pterodroma petrels are seen off Britain and Ireland. Separating these petrels is one of the greatest identification challenges faced by British and Irish birders and the majority go unidentified. Unidentified birds are suspected to be the more populous Desertas Petrel, however, it has been thought that amongst these a very few Zino’s Petrels might also occur. Obtaining good enough views and photographs to separate the two species has long been the challenge.

Therefore, an observation of a bird resembling this taxon from a boat near the Isles of Scilly was not wholly unexpected. Fortunately, the individual was photographed and seen by observers with much experience of all three North Atlantic Pterodroma species. Consideration of the bird’s slighter structure and smaller bill size, and analysis of its underwing pattern all indicated that this individual was P. madeira and not P. deserta or P. feae.

The combination of these key characteristics allowed this bird to be identified as a Zino’s Petrel, with the record accepted as the first British record and the species added to Category A of the British List.

It should be placed after Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis on the British List.

Zino’s Petrel breeds on Madeira in the Atlantic, with birds dispersing south to St Helena and off north-east Brazil, and north to waters south-west of Ireland.

This change will be published as part of the BOURC’s 55th report due to be published in Ibis in January 2023. Upon publication of these changes, the British List stands at 629 species (Category A = 611; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

View the British List