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The Hunt for the Diablotin Bird

by: - January 31, 2020
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Two conservation groups are on the island for the second time to track the black-capped petrel, known as the Diablotin bird.

In 2015, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife along with conservation group, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) were on the hunt near Morne Diablotin to determine whether the endangered bird still nested in Dominica.

Currently, the global population of petrels is around two thousand but the 2015 expedition made a find in Dominica which they consider significant enough to make a difference in the global numbers.

Adam Brown, senior biologist with Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC). Reporting on the findings of the 2015 survey, he said, “The results were very encouraging. It basically followed up on the fact that people had been seeing birds and then we saw hundred of petrel with the radar flying into places where they historically had nested.”

This time, five years later EPIC and Birds Caribbean are back in Dominica to see how Hurricane Maria has affected the petrel population on the island.

The expedition will be two weeks long and the team will be all over the island using listening devices and thermal imaging to detect the nocturnal Diablotin bird and get a sense of the local population.

“This bird is really secretive. It’s easier to see out on the water during the day because the only time it comes to land is in the night in the dark, it flies up very fast up into the mountains, falls into the bush and crawls into a hole, “ says Jennifer Wheeler of Birds Caribbean who is part of the expedition.

“This is a very hard bird to find,” Wheeler reveals. “The world thought the world had disappeared in the late 1800s from the all the places that it was known and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that a man determined that they were in Haiti; he had heard the  but it took 50 years to find a hole where a petrel was actually nesting.”

The Diablotin, or black-capped petrel is the bird after which Dominica’s highest mountain is named.

Because of its night-time habits and odd-sounding mating calls, locals believed that meant the presence of evil spirits in the dark.

Hence, Diablotin which means “little devil”

Here’s a clip of a petrel at night:

 

While the Diablotin bird is an endangered species with a dwindling global population, the bird has been found all over the island on Dominica’s highest mountains.

                                       Jennifer Wheeler and Adam Brown