4 min read

Bird With A Baby Bump Photographed In Flight For The First Time

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/critically-endangered-mascarene-petrel-discovered-sea-and-unique-image-captured-bird">Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project</a></p>

Researchers studying one of the world's rarest seabirds have captured what is believed to be the first photo ever taken of a bird in flight with an egg inside her visibly protruding in the form of a little baby bird bump.

But this image of a clearly-expectant Mascarene petrel isn't just a novel; it's helping scientists to better understand the breeding cycle of a bird which, until now, has been a mystery.

This petrel species is only found on Réunion Island, a few hundred miles east of Madagascar, living in colonies containing perhaps just a few dozen breeding pairs. Their small, isolated population puts them at high risk of extinction, prompting them to be classified as a critically endangered species.

Vincent Bretagnolle, co-author of a study on the team's findings, tells Birdlife International that this rare sighting, along with several others, indicates the birds have a more robust population.

"With some estimates of only a few dozen breeding pairs of Mascarene Petrel our at-sea records suggest there are more individuals than thought, and that unknown colonies somewhere on the island have ensured the future of this species, at least for now."

(Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project)

Ornithologist and author Hadoram Shirihai recalls the moment that he saw the expectant mother swoop into view, and notes the heartening implications of that precious cargo she's carrying:

"Against the background of a pinkish-orange sunset, with Réunion Island in the distance, I spotted a petrel through my camera's viewfinder. Almost immediately I saw the outline of an egg, a huge bump at its belly. I called out to the other expedition members - ‘she has an egg, she has an egg...' "She flew close to the boat which gave me the unique chance to photograph her just before the sun set. It was a magical moment, and to think that in less than an hour she would probably lay her egg and contribute to the future survival of this threatened species."