The New Zealand Storm-petrel, Oceanites maorianus, is a small seabird of the tubenose family. Previously thought to be extinct since 1850, a series of sightings from 2003 to the present indicate the presence of a previously unknown colony. It has on occasion been considered a subspecies or even variant of Wilson’s Storm-petrel, O. oceanicus, but is quite distinct.
Outside the breeding season it is pelagic (open sea), remaining at sea, and this, together with its remote breeding sites, makes it a difficult bird to observe.
It had been believed to be extinct, and certainly has not been seen at its known breeding sites, but on 25 January 2003 a possible sighting was made by Sav Saville, Brent Stephenson and others close to the Mercury Islands off the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand‘s North Island, leading to several inconclusive photographs and an being published.
On 17 November 2003 while looking for Black-bellied Storm-petrels and White-faced Storm-petrels, Bob Flood and Bryan Thomas obtained good photographs and video of 10 to 20 New Zealand Storm-petrels off Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
Subsequently, four Storm-petrels were captured and released in a similar area in late 2005/early 2006, three with radio transmitters attached. These have only been tracked at sea; efforts to find the bird’s breeding location have been unsuccessful to date.
The most likely breeding location is within the Hauraki Gulf where the New Zealand Storm Petrel working group are concentrating their efforts. Other tour operators  have also regularly seen these birds on the Hauraki Gulf since this time.
This storm-petrel is strictly nocturnal at the breeding sites to avoid predation by gulls and skuas.
Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.
The New Zealand Storm-petrel is a small seabird, dark brown/black above, except for its white rump. The underparts are black from the throat to the breast, with a white belly that has black streaking, and the feet project well beyond the tail.
It differs from the commoner species, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, by its pale bar on the upper wing, white belly with streaking, narrow white panel on the underwings, longer legs, and dark webs to the feet.
- BirdLife International (2005). Oceanites maorianus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2006. iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is critically endangered
- Flood (2003). “The New Zealand storm-petrel is not extinct”. Birding world 16: 479–483.
- Gaskin, C.P.; Baird, K.A. (2005). “Observations of black and white storm petrels in the Hauraki Gulf, November 2003 to June 2005; Were they of New Zealand storm petrels?”. Notornis 52: 181–194.
- Saville, S.; Stephenson, B.; Southey, I. (2003). “A possible sighting of an ‘extinct’ bird – the New Zealand storm petrel”. Birding World 16: 173–175.