The ‘Jesus bird’ is the unique name given to storm petrels, small seabirds of the family Hydrobatidae, for their characteristic ability to ‘walk’ on water. Storm petrels are remarkable creatures. With a body-weight about the same as a house sparrow, these seabirds can live for up to 30 years, and feed in the remote pelagic ocean hundreds of kilometres from land on planktonic crustaceans, only coming to land to nest.
The New Zealand storm petrel (Fregetta maorianus) was first taxonomically described in the 19th century from specimens at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris and then presumed extinct since 1895 with no further collections. That was until bird watchers re-sighted the bird in2003 and began an intensive monitoring campaign to try and locate the surviving breeding colony. Ten years later scientists last month have successfully discovered the breeding colony on Hauturu-O-Toi (Little Barrier Island) after tracking adult birds back to their colony, and once the adults had left locating one of many tiny eggs in a tiny nesting crevice in the cliff face.