Latin name: Oceanites oceanicus

Wilson's Storm Petrel

Wilson’s Storm Petrel

Population: More than 6,000,000 individuals. It is one of the most abundant bird species in the world.

Cites classified: Least Concern (IUCN, 2008)

Where found: The Wilson’s Storm Petrel is a transequatorial migrant, with one of the longest recorded migrations. The Wilson’s Storm Petrel breeds only on sub-Antarctic islands and around the Antarctic Continent, but in the non-breeding season it flies to the North Atlantic, to the Gulf of Alaska in the Pacific Ocean, and throughout the Indian Ocean.

Wingspan: 38-42 cm

Length: 15-19 cm

Weight: 28-50 g

Mating/Breeding: The Wilson’s Storm Petrel nests in colonies close to the sea in rock crevices or small burrows in soft earth, partially associated with prions or other petrels. It breeds between November and February. The Wilson’s Storm Petrel lays one egg, incubated for 33 to 59 days. The chicks fledge after 46 to 97 days.

Eggs: White, spotted at the broad end.

Hunting Habits: The Wilson’s Storm Petrel has a more direct gliding flight than Storm Petrel, but shares the habit of pattering on the water surface as it picks planktonic food items from the ocean surface, though with more upraised wings. Like European Storm-petrel, it is highly gregarious, and will also follow ships. A soft peeping noise is often heard while the birds are feeding.

Feed on: Crustaceans, such as krill, on floating carcasses and on fish offal and rubbish from ships.

Threats: On some sub-Antarctic islands the introduced cats and rats take a severe toll. Skuas take some in flight. Krill exploitation by man may cause future problems.

Colour/Looks: The Wilson’s Storm Petrel is all dark with a simple white band across its rump and sometimes lighter bars above and below the wings.

Interesting Trivia:

  • The name commemorates the Scottish-American ornithologist Alexander Wilson.
  • In feeding, the bird skips, walks and patters over the surface, sometimes stopping for a moment with wings raised high and legs dangling, sometimes actually going backwards. In Peru they are known as bailarines – ballet dancers.

More info:

  • Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)
  • David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)
  • Tony Soper, Antarctica. A guide to the wildlife (2000)