LIFE Project Cover Photo

Urgent measures for the recovery of Bugio's petrel, Pterodroma feae, and its habitat

Reference: LIFE06 NAT/P/000184 | Acronym: SOS Freira do Bugio



The Desertas Islands (Madeira), Portugal, holds 90% of the breeding population of the rare Fea's petrel (Pterodroma feae) (173-258 specimens). The Natura 2000 site is classified as an SPA and also as a pSCI, due to its important biodiversity. It possesses a large number of birds listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, several of them breeding on the islands, and plants and mammals from the Annex II of the Habitats Directive. The main threats to the species are the disturbance and destruction of nests caused by rabbits; habitat degradation due to the introduction of vertebrates; concentration of at least 90% of the breeding population in a single limited area (<20 000 sq metre); lack of knowledge of the existence of important feeding and dispersion areas for the species and of the direct and indirect impact of human activities; and predation by small mammals and other birds.


The project’s long-term aim was to conserve a sustainable population of the targeted seabird and its breeding habitat, where many important species listed in the Habitats Directive Annex II can be found. Actions would include optimising conditions for the recovery of the breeding habitat, promoting the bird’s expansion into new areas with available breeding habitat on the islands of Bugio and on Deserta Grande; identifying the important areas at sea during its life cycle; and encouraging public support for the conservation of the species and its habitat.


The project concluded successfully with all the planned actions achieving their objectives.

Important management tools, such as a Management Plan for the Desertas and an Action Plan for the target species, were developed. Importantly, the project works allowed the definition of a new taxonomic status for the Desertas species (now named Bugio’s petrel), which is now recognised as an endemic species of the Desertas.

The information collected on the species’ reproduction and ecology should prove extremely valuable for its future management. Although the tasks concerning the expansion of the species to other geographical locations were abandoned (due to the establishment of a population of the target species with a number of individuals lower than initially expected), the species response to the improvement of the breeding conditions was “very positive” signalling high hopes, according to the beneficiary, for the future recovery of the species.

Equally successful were the results obtained for the recovery of the habitat, after the implementation of the tasks tackling the control of the erosion and of the mice and rabbits, present on the islands.

The following key preparatory actions were undertaken:

  • Conclusion of field monitoring tasks showing continued absence of rabbits, goats and mice from the southern plateau of the island of Bugio;
  • Conclusion of the studies to evaluate the response of faunal groups (i.e. species with similar distributions);
  • The reproductive biology of the target species was studied in detail providing positive results and pointing to the successful recovery of the population. For example, the 2010 survey estimated a population of between 160 and 180 pairs;
  • A total of 252 Bugio’s petrel individuals were tagged during the project;
  • Four accesses to the Bugio’s south plateau were created or improved.
  • Other notable non-recurring management actions included:

  • Some 1 200 m of coconut meshing was put in place to control erosion in the main breeding areas of Bugio;
  • To increase the vegetation cover and aid the retention of soil, seeds of 10 different species (Aizoon, Andryala, Cryptum, Lotus, Mathiola, Sinapidendrom and Tolpis) collected in the project area were directly dispersed on the top of the south plateau;
  • Eradication of rabbits was particularly successful with no individuals reported in the project area since 2008;
  • Confirmation of the presence of 11 active nests of Bugio’s petrel on the island of Grande Deserta and confirmation of no species at the northern plateau of Bugio;
  • From the 24 artificial nests built during the project, during the 2010 breeding season 12 were occupied by couples (four with successful juveniles) – a good indicator of the acceptance of the nests by individuals;
  • The publication in an international review of an article on the new taxonomic status of Bugio’s petrel, now recognised as an endemic species of the Desertas;
  • A total of 21 tracking devices were used on 14 individual birds. Results (from the 16 recovered a year later) showed that during the breeding season the individuals extended their flight areas from the African coast to the Azores region. During the wintering season migration occurs to four main areas: Cape Vert archipelago; Northeast of Brazil, Central coastal areas of Brazil and Vale Beaufort (USA);
  • Between 2006 and 2010, more than 2 000 hours of monitoring were undertaken for an area covering a total of more than 29 000 km. During this period, more than 93 000 bird specimens (65 different species) and 2 000 cetacean specimens (seven different species) were identified;
  • The substantial data amassed by the project team did not change the marine IBA boundaries, established in 2009; but did, however, enable the identification of new feeding areas outside the Madeira archipelago.
  • Finally, the project’s awareness and dissemination campaigns attracted a very high number of participants and have helped to increase the knowledge about the species among the local people. Among these actions, over 2 000 local people (students, teachers and tourist agents etc) took part in more than 140 visits organised by the project. A strong awareness-raising campaign in Madeira, as well as significant media coverage of the project in newspapers and with several regional TV and radio reports, have helped to improve knowledge about an important endemic seabird species that was little known locally, before the launch of the project.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


    Reference: LIFE06 NAT/P/000184
    Acronym: SOS Freira do Bugio
    Start Date: 01/02/2006
    End Date: 31/12/2010
    Total Budget: 966,468 €
    EU Contribution: 723,691 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira
    Legal Status: PUBLIC
    Address: Quinta do Bom Sucesso - Cam. do Meio, 9051-251, Funchal, Portugal
    Contact Person: Dilia MENEZES
    Tel: +351 291 214 360

    LIFE Project Map



    • Birds
    • Marine


    • natural park
    • protected area
    • island


    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)


    • 0 - Non applicable (i.e.species project)


    • Pterodroma feae


    Type Code Name
    SPA PTDES0001 Ilhas Desertas


    Name Type
    Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira Coordinator
    SPEA, Portugal Participant