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Austral Storm Petrels - Discover More About These 'Water Walkers'

Austral storm petrels are a type of seabird that has the unique ability to fly. They can fly up to 100 miles without stopping, and they can stay aloft for weeks at a time.

These birds, sometimes known as Cape Petrels, have been seen flying across Africa for a long time. They have been seen flying in big groups and flocking together.

Researchers believe these birds fly thousands of miles each year using the winds that sweep over the continent. This is significant because it implies that these birds may be transporting information about climate change and other environmental challenges from one section of Africa to another.

Get To Know Them More

Petrel flying above the water
Petrel flying above the water

Austral storm petrels are in the Procellariiformes family Oceanitidae. These tiny seabirds graze on plankton and small fish while hovering. Fluttering, bat-like flying.

Austral storm petrels are present in all oceans, although only Wilson's are in the North. They're mostly pelagic, only reproducing on land. Most petrel species are hard to discover and identify at sea, where their behavior and distribution are unknown.

They nest in colonies and show significant philopatry to their natal places. All but one species nest nocturnally in cracks or burrows. Monogamous pairs share incubation and chick-feeding chores. Incubation can take up to 50 days, and fledging another 70 days.

Humans threaten several austral storm petrel species. New Zealand storm petrels were thought extinct until 2003. Many storm petrels nest on mammal-free islands and cannot deal with rats and feral cats.

Features And Traits

A brown Petrel looking for food
A brown Petrel looking for food

These birds can fly up to 7 feet (2 meters) and are exceptional gliders. They are well-known for their unusual activity of "running" along the water surface, flapping their wings until they gain enough speed to take off. Southern giant petrels, like all seabirds, breed on land and feed at sea.

Austral Storm Petrels are the smallest of all seabirds, at 15–26 cm in length. The family has two body forms; austral storm petrels have short wings, square tails, elongated skulls, and long legs. Storm petrel legs are proportionally longer than those of other Procellariiformes, yet they are exceedingly fragile and can only carry the bird's weight for a few steps.

Storm petrels, like many seabirds, will collaborate with other seabird and marine mammal species to find food. It is thought that they benefit from the actions of diving predators such as seals and penguins, who drive prey up to the surface while hunting, allowing storm petrels to reach them.

Habitat And Breeding

Petrel flying high on the sky
Petrel flying high on the sky

Austral storm petrels have a global range, occurring in all oceans, albeit only Wilson's storm petrels live in the Northern Hemisphere. They are virtually entirely pelagic, coming to land only to procreate.

Storm petrels nest colonially on islands, but some breed on the continent, especially Antarctica. Nighttime nest checks prevent predators. Storm petrels return to their natal colonies to breed.

A band-rumped storm petrel was collected 2 m from its natal burrow. Storm petrels nest in dirt or sand burrows or rock crevices. Shearwaters have been known to kill storm petrels to occupy their burrows. 840,000 white-faced storm petrel pairs nest on South East Island, Chatham Islands, with 1.18 to 0.47 burrows / m2.

People Also Ask

Why Do Petrels Have Tube Noses?

Most petrels have an acute sense of smell, which aids them in finding food and a suitable nesting site. Excess salt is also expelled through the tubes by a gland located above the eyes.

What Is Storm Petrels Predator?

Skuas, Gulls, Owls, and Falcons feast on Storm Petrel eggs and young. Adults may potentially be taken by Falcons due to their small stature.

How Many Petrels Are There?

The giant petrels form a genus, Macronectes, from the family Procellariidae, which consists of two species. They are actually the largest birds of this family.


Human actions endanger several species of austral storm petrels. The New Zealand storm petrel is highly endangered and was thought to be extinct for many years before being rediscovered in 2003, albeit the population is believed to be very small. Storm petrels experience the same problems as other seabirds, with introduced species posing the greatest hazard.

About The Authors

Velma Battle

Velma Battle - Travelling Expert

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