15/09/2005
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Fea's Petrel Admitted to Category A of the British List

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A Press Release from the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee and British Birds Rarities Committee

Fea's Petrel (Pterodroma feae): At sea, c. 60 miles south-west of the Isles of Scilly, 12 August 2001

Admitted to Category A of the British List

Fea's Petrel
Fea's Petrel (Photo: Ashley Fisher)

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee has admitted Fea's Petrel (Pterodroma feae) to Category A of the British List following the acceptance of an individual seen c. 60 miles southwest of the Isles of Scilly on 12 August 2001 (sight record, photographed). It was observed by over 300 birders taking part on the MV Scillonian III pelagic for an hour and twenty minutes.

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Identification of the 'soft-plumaged petrel' group is problematic, and separation of Fea's Petrel from the extremely similar Zino's Petrel (Pterodroma madeira) represents one of the most difficult identification challenges for British birders. Minute but diagnostic differences in bill structure, not normally discernible in field conditions, can however be determined from high-quality photographs. Bill measurements of the two species do not overlap, but there is as little as 1 mm difference between the bills of largest Zino's and the smallest Fea's.

This record was supported by excellent still photographs (by Gary Bellingham and others) which enabled both BBRC and BOURC to examine in detail the diagnostic bill structure and positive identification as Fea's Petrel and unanimous acceptance as the first British record of this species.

Eric Meek, Chairman of BOURC commented "The supporting photographic evidence was crucial in the assessment of this record, and these left members of BOURC certain of the identification. Pterodroma petrels have been occurring with increasing frequency in British waters and a definite identification was probably only a matter of time. However, inevitably, the great majority of records will have to remain as 'either/ors'"

NOTE - a record of one observed on 8 July 2001 seven miles south of the Isles of Scilly (eds. note: pictured above) is still under consideration.

The British List now stands at 570 species (Category A = 548; Category B = 12; Category C = 10).

BRITISH ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION

The Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 6AP, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1 442 890 080
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7942 6150
Email: bou@bou.org.uk
Website: www.bou.org.uk/www.ibis.ac.uk

British Birds Rarities Committee

Bag End, Churchtown, Towednack, Cornwall TR26 3AZ.