The lonely life of the Ashy Storm-petrel

March 6th, 2013 · by Garrison Frost


We come across a lot of great bird photography, but this one by Glen Tepke of an Ashy Storm-petrel out over the Pacific has always stood out for us. Sure, it’s not a close-up, and it doesn’t give you lots of detail about the bird. But it nonetheless tells the story of the bird quite well. The Ashy Storm-petrel spends much of its solitary life over the open water just like this, surviving in a narrow and harsh envelope of the ocean ecosystem. This photo captures that lonely, delicate balance amazingly well.

The Ashy Storm-Petrel, a smoky gray seabird that spends most of its life out over the ocean, can only be found on the islands off California and in the adjacent waters. It has been placed on the Audubon Watchlist because of severe population declines as well as numerous threats to breeding and foraging habitat.

A few years ago, Audubon California and other conservation groups unsuccessfully fought to place the Ashy Storm-petrel on the Endangered Species List. We felt then, as we do now, that the bird’s rapidly declining population and small geographic distribution merited this protection.

This bird lives and breeds almost entirely off the coast of California (its population does spread southward into Mexico), and because of this we feel a certain obligation to protect it. It’s one of our California birds, and an important part of that natural legacy in which we Californians take so much pride.

Thankfully, not all news about the Ashy Storm-petrel has been bad in recent years. The move to create Marine Protected Areas in California includes special protections for species. And we’ve seen the bird actually returning to some previous breeding grounds in Northern California.

Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Birding · seabirds

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