Also known as Black-faced Sheathbill

Latin name: Chionis minor

Lesser Sheathbill (source - Wikipedia)

Lesser Sheathbill (source – Wikipedia)

Population: The Lesser Sheathbill has a population of approx. 13,000-20,000 individuals.

Conservation status: Least Concern (IUCN, 2008)

Where found: The Lesser Sheathbill is restricted to sub-Antarctic islands in the southern Indian Ocean: the South African territory of the Prince Edward Islands, the French territories of the Crozet Islands and Kerguelen Islands, and the Australian territory of Heard Island.

Wingspan: 74-79 cm

Length: 38-41 cm

Weight: 450-760 g

Mating/Breeding: The Lesser Sheathbill almost always nests in close association with penguin or other seabird colonies. The Lesser Sheathbill breeds between October and April (eggs in December/January, chicks in January/February). It lays 1 to 4 eggs, incubated for 27 to 33 days. The chicks fledge at 55-60 days.

Eggs: White.

Hunting Habits: Scavengers.

Feed on: The Lesser Sheathbills are omnivorous, scavenging fish, krill etc around seabird colonies, feeding on carcasses, human refuse and eggs and chicks, especially of penguins, as well as a variety of terrestrial invertebrates, particularly in winter.

Threats: Not globally threatened, though sharp declines due to feral-cats predation reported on Île aux Cochons and parts of Kerguelen.

Colour/Looks: The Lesser Sheathbill has a black sheath and caruncles, and pink eye-rings. Leg colour varies from pink to black, depending on the subspecies.

Interesting Trivia:

  • Four separate subspecies of the Lesser Sheathbill occur on sub-Antarctic islands in the Indian Ocean, one resident on Iles Kerguelen, one on Iles Crozet, one on Marion and Prince Edward islands and one on Heard and McDonald Islands.

More info:

  • Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)
  • David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)