Cook’s Petrel were once common throughout both North and South Islands but are restricted to Little Barrier, Codfish Island and a small population on Great Barrier.
The birds, about the size of a pigeon, are silver, white and grey with a sharp, black hooked beak. They migrate to New Zealand each breeding season between August and October.
To avoid New Zealand’s winter, from as early as January through to April, they fly as far as Chile, California and the northern Atlantic. When the Cook’s Petrel, mainly juveniles, start leaving their burrows to begin their migratory journey they do so at night.
Because the birds fly and feed at night they very often get attracted to city lights. When this happens they become disoriented, tired and need to land. Once on the ground they cannot take flight again. This is why many of the Cook’s Petrels are often found grounded in and around the Auckland area.
The birds require special care as they will not feed themselves when on the ground. Provided they have not been injured and their weight is good, we try to have them back in the air within 24 to 36 hours.
Should anyone find a Cook’s Petrel we ask that they pick it up, place it on a soft towel in a box and contact the SPCA or a bird rescue centre as soon as possible.