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Range DescriptionPterodroma brevipes is presently known to breed only on Gau (Fiji), and possibly on Viti Levu, Kadavu, Ovalau, Vanuabalavu (Fiji), Tau (Western Samoa), Raratonga (Cook Islands), and South Vanuatu and Makira (Solomon Islands) (J. Hobbs in litt. 2009). On Gau island, 165 birds were attracted to lights on four nights in April-May 1984 (Watling 1985). However, in recent surveys for this species at the historical breeding site of Ovalau (July 2004) none were seen (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). A more recent survey at Mt Washington (=Nabukulevu) on Kadavu recorded fewer than five, although the visit was outside the breeding season (S. Cranwell and J. Bird in litt). The species is a cryptic breeder, rarely seen from the coast, returning to land only after dark during the breeding season and often silent after pre-laying displays, so it may have been overlooked. The species may have been extirpated from Viti Levu and Vanua Levu through predation by introduced mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus. However, on Viti Levu, petrels have been seen flying inland during the day, one freshly killed specimen was found in 1971 (Watling 1986), and birds heard in the interior may have been of this species. The one other Fijian island with a historical specimen record but no mongooses, Vanuabalavu (Watling 1986), has not been surveyed in recent years, nor have other islands such as Taveuni and Moala which may hold this species (Watling 1986, D. Watling in litt. 2000, G. Dutson in litt. 2005). There are a few at-sea records of this species from Fijian seas, with maximum recorded counts of eight birds (Jenkins 1986, D. Hobcroft in litt. 2005). Outside Fiji, there are historical breeding specimens from Vanuatu and Makira (Solomon Islands). A series of specimens from Vanuatu from 1859 to 1936 include breeding birds from the southern islands of Tanna and Aneityeum (=Anatom), and birds from Efate and at sea off Mere Lava (Banks Islands) (Bregulla 1992). The only recent records from Vanuatu are two off Efate on 11 March 1971 (Trodden in Bourne and Dixon 1975) and some at sea in 2004 (D. Hobcroft in litt. 2004). There have been no recent thorough surveys of the Vanuatu breeding islands but local people on Tanna reported that hole-nesting birds were very rare in 1998 (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). A visit to Tanna in July 2008 proved that the species still breeds in the mountains in the south-west of the island (S. Totterman pers. comm). The newly-described taxon P. b. magnificens, presumed to breed on Vanua Lava and possibly Gaua in the Banks Islands, was found to be relatively abundant during an expedition in 2009, with 180 sighted at sea (Bretagnolle and Shirihai 2010). Extensive work with local communities on Makira revealed no knowledge of the species but nine were seen at sea between Makira and the Santa Cruz islands on 3 October 2004 (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). The species previously nested on Rarotonga (Cook Islands), but only a small relict population remained in 1990, which is now reported to have gone extinct (McCormack 1992, M. Imber in litt. 2006, E. Saul in litt. 2006). It may also breed on the Austral Islands (French Polynesia), Moorea and Tahiti, and Samoa, although there are no confirmed records (M. Rauzon in litt. 2005, M. Imber in litt. 2006). Reports from Tau in American Samoa may refer to the Herald Petrel P. heraldica (Engbring and Ramsay 1989). It has been suggested that the birds found in the Solomon Islands and French Polynesia may be P. caledonica rather than P. brevipes(V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2005), although this is disputed (M. Imber in litt. 2006). Regardless of the taxonomic status of P. brevipes, it is undoubtedly rare, and its population has recently been estimated at 1,000-10,000 individuals (G. Dutson in litt. 2005).
The non-breeding range is thought to be tropical Pacific between 10°N and 10°S as far as the Galapagos Islands. Rollo Beck collected 6 small dark Collared Petrel specimens on the Whitney South Sea Expedition in 1927. In December 2009 Vincent Bretagnolle and Hadoram Shirihai observed and photographed this small dark form, which is now described as P.b. magnificens (J. Hobbs in litt. 2009, Shirhai and Bretagnolle 2011).