First Madeiran storm-petrel

Hurricane «Lothar» in 1999 has not only left unprecedented damages in Switzerland, it also displaced many marine birds into the heart of the European continent in Switzerland. One of these was a Madeiran Storm-Petrel found dead in canton Wallis, a first record for Switzerland and Central Europe. The specimen is part of the ornithological collection of the Natural History Museum Basel.

The name «Madeiran Storm-Petrel» includes a complex of several so-called cryptic species. These cannot be distinguished morphologically but breed on various islands of the North Atlantic and Pacific. Only a few years ago, researchers discovered that birds breeding at exactly the same place on the Azores in winter and in summer, respectively, belong to different species. Genetic research that followed, allowed to reassign various island populations into separate species.

The species identity of the bird displaced by hurricane Lothar has never been established, due to the lack of diagnostic morphological features. That’s why Manuel Schweizer and David Marques are currently analyzing a mitochondrial DNA segment obtained from the toe pad of this specimen to identify it to species level.