Black-capped Petrel was once a relatively common seabird around the
Caribbean. However, in the 1800s birds and their eggs were harvested,
and in conjunction with the introduction of rats and other predators to
their nesting colonies, populations declined precipitously. The once
widespread species is now thought to be holding on only in a few breeding
sites on the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti). A
dark-colored phase of the bird, known as the "Jamaican Petrel", is likely
now extinct. Their colloquial name is the "Diablotin", so named for their
haunting, "devilish" nighttime calls on the breeding grounds.
Habitat: Breeds on cliffs and steep forested
slopes on islands in the Caribbean. Non-breeding birds are found at
sea, but can sometimes be found relatively close to shore.
Diet: Feeds on squid and small fish.
Behavior: Feeds by flying near the ocean's
surface, dipping down and pattering their feet on the water as they grab
prey. They will also sometimes swim on the ocean's surface and reach
down to grab prey.
Nesting: The nest of a Black-capped Petrel is a
burrow in the soil, excavated by the parents. A single egg is laid.
Both parents help to incubate the egg, and tend to and feed the young after
Song: Usually silent away from the breeding
grounds. On the breeding grounds, noted for its haunting calls, most often
heard at night (hence the "Diablotin" nickname).
Migration: Breeding is now thought to be confined
to the high mountains of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Non-breeding
birds are also concentrated in the Caribbean, but can also be found off the
Atlantic Coast of the U.S., and rarely wander far across the Atlantic
towards Europe and Africa. Storm events have occasionally pushed
individual birds far inland, with inland records across several eastern U.S.
Similar plumage to several Shearwater species that are found at times near
North America, with dark plumage above and lighter plumage below. In flight,
the white rump and black band on the underwing are diagnostic. The
white neck and black cap are also diagnostic when comparing to other Petrel
species, but they could be confused with the
Herald Petrel, or Fea's Petrel.
Conservation Status: Populations have declined
drastically since 1800. Collection of birds and their eggs, and
introduction of rats and mongoose to nesting areas caused their initial
declines, and the species has yet to recover. They have been
extirpated as breeding birds on several islands where they formerly bred.
IUCN lists the Black-capped Petrel as "Endangered".