At sunset, off the island of Hispaniola, an adult Black-capped Petrel circles over the Caribbean Sea, waiting for darkness. It’s under the cover of darkness that this species flies inland and heads to its nesting grounds on the high forested peaks of the island. As it makes its way inland, up ancient flyways, it must navigate around brightly lit buildings, tall communication towers, and power lines that are strung along roadways and the coast. Some nights, this matrix of flight hazards is not a problem, but on other nights... It’s on those nights that the petrels will accidently strike hazards, falling to the ground stunned, often never being able to continue their journey to the nesting grounds.
Because of these human-made hazards and their impacts on the endangered Black-capped Petrel, EPIC began the “Black-capped Petrel Conservation Program” in 2021, in partnership with the Dominican Republic environmental foundation, Grupo Jaragua, with funding from SPAW-RAC. This program has supported work in the communities within the Rio Pedernales area of southwest Dominican Republic. The project goal was to understand how often petrels were found stranded on the ground as well as map all the apparent flight hazards along the Rio Pedernales. This information will now be used to create a strategy where flight hazards in high strike areas would be reduced and work will be done with communities to safely rescue and rehabilitate grounded birds so they can be released back into the wild.
The work began in January 2022 and continues today, with staff members visiting communities in the Rio Pedernales watershed on a monthly basis and collecting information about petrels. Staff members worked with community groups to learn about ways to let petrels fly up the watershed without hazards and to figure out how to protect and release petrels that are found grounded. This program has been embraced by these communities and each now has a program in place to preserve petrels. This program will be expanded in future years to include as many additional petrel flyways as possible. We look forward to continuing to protect the rare Black-capped Petrel and to promote the protection and stability of its population.