The Bryan’s Shearwater, a bird thought to be extinct has been found living on Pacific Islands. Several of these birds have been found alive on the remote Ogasawara Islands near Japan.

The Bryan’s Shearwater is a pelagic (ocean dwelling) bird, meaning that it lives primarily around deep water and is rarely found on land or near coastlines. Most shearwaters only come ashore to breed.

First identified as a unique species in 2011, researchers are excited to have found a living population. The species is named to honor Edwin Horace Bryan Jr. who was the curator of the B. P. Bishop Museum at Honolulu from 1919 to 1968.

DNA analysis conducted in 2011 on the bird specimen collected in 1963 on Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands confirmed that it was actually a separate species, the first to be found in over 35 years.

Bryan’s Shearwater is the smallest of the shearwaters (there are about 22 recognized species) and very little is known about its breeding habits and range Based on the habits of other shearwater species, experts speculate that Bryan’s could range throughout the Pacific Ocean basin and most likely uses nesting burrows on remote islands. Many shearwaters are nocturnal visitors to their burrows, making them even more difficult to observe.

Seabirds can be found hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearest land, and many seabird species may spend years at sea without ever returning to land. When they do visit islands or coastlines, it is often just to breed and raise their young, a process which may take a few weeks or several months. Outside of breeding, seabirds spend most of their lives above, on or in the sea.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Excerpted from a post Monday, February 27, 2012 by eNature