Birds of the World

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ANECDOTES

  Waved Albatross
 
 
 

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Totipalmate Swm

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Procellariiformes
 
Skip to:   
Procellariiformes
Families: Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Petrels and Diving Petrels, Storm-Petrels
 
Skip to:  
All albatrosses, Feeding procellariids
 
Species:   
Waved Albatross, Elliott's Storm-Petrel
 
Images:   
Waved Albatross, Cape Petrel, Elliot's Storm-Petrel.
Feeding Group
, Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Shy Albatross, Laysan Albatross,
Westland Petrel, Cape Pigeon, Antarctic Petrel, Dark-rumped Petrel, Galapagos Shearwater,
 
  Order Procellariiformes - Albatrosses, Shearwaters,
   Petrels, Diving Petrels, Storm-Petrels
   (Tube-nosed Swimmers)
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  The tube-nosed swimmers are pelagic birds found over the oceans, islands, and coasts of most of the world, nesting mainly in the higher latitudes of both hemisphere. Sibley and Monroe (1990) list 115 species in 24 genera. Dickinson (2003) list 117 living species in 26 genera. Clements, 2007, lists 114 species, also in 24 genera (but not all genera are the same as those of Sibley and Monroe).
   Procellariids are believed to be clustered with penguins (sister groups). Herons/storks and pelicans are sister groups with each other and with the procellariiform line. Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) and The Encyclopedia of Life place the clade the Ciconiiformes. Sibley and Monroe (1990) pace all tube-nosed swimmers in one family with 3 subfamilies:

Family Procellariidae - Tube-nosed Swimmers

   Subfamily Hydrobatinae - Storm-petrels
   Subfamily Procellariinae - Petrels, Shearwaters and Diving-Petrels 
   Subfamily Diomedeinae - Albatrosses

Following Clements (2007) we will describe the order with four families (but the Diving-Petrels are often included with the petrels and shearwaters). I am not a big fan of the expanded Order Ciconiiformes of Sibley and Monroe (1990) and The Encyclopedia of Life.

   Tube-nosed swimmers range over all of our oceans, islands, and coasts of most of the world. Their nostrils are enclosed by tube-like structures on the upper and lateral surfaces of the bill - this feature defines the group and provides strong evidence for their close relationships. Their pelvic muscles are variable. Flexor tendons are Type 4. They are diastaxic. Their nostrils are impervious. Caeca are small or absent. Their oil gland is tufted and bilobed. The syrinx is bronchial or tracheobronchial. They have mature down over the entire body. Young are nidicolous and may require extensive parental care. Chicks may be abandoned before they are able to fly. Once airborne, they range widely around the world.
   Procellariids are truly oceanic birds - many use land only for breeding. [Note that this is another constraint on birds - they must use land for reproductive events (there are no viviparous birds that produce young at sea like whales). There is some fairly far-fetched speculation that extinct Ichthyornis, toothed, flightless seabirds, might have been viviparous but this is very unlikely.]
Clements (2007) separates the order into four taxa/families: (1) albatrosses; (2) petrels and shearwaters, (3) storm-petrels. and (4) diving petrels (often included with petrels). Dickinson (2003) does not group families into higher taxa but includes four related families together in his list: albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, storm petrels, and diving petrels. Sibley and Monroe (1990), place the procellariids in the superfamily Procellarioidea (Ciconiiformes) along with Frigatebirds, Penguins, and Loons. The procellariids themselves are grouped into three subfamilies: Hydrobatinae (Storm-Petrels); Procellariinae (Petrels, Shearwaters, Diving-Petrels), and Diomedeinae (Albatrosses), The families grouped in the Procellarioidea share schizognathous palates, the presence of two carotid arteries, holorhinal nares, palmate (webbed) feet, and two nestling downs.
   High-latitude procellariid species move toward the Equator or to the opposite hemisphere in the non-breeding season. Some wander long distances from the breeding grounds when not breeding and may circumnavigate the globe, especially in the Southern Hemisphere.
   Procellariids have their nostrils enclosed in a tube-like structure on the upper/lateral surface of the bill. The tube projects anteriorly. Most species (all but storm-petrels) store an oily, noxious fluid derived from their food in the first part of the stomach (the proventriculus). These oils may provide nutrition in times of scarcity and are normally used to feed their young. The young of several species discharge it to discourage predators if they are disturbed. Some adults may also discharge this fluid in intraspecific agonistic encounters. Most species have a musty odor that persists in their skins in the museum.
   Tube-nosed swimmers have a highly developed olfactory region in the brain and many detect their food by smell. They may also use odors to locate their nesting sites or burrows.
Their bill is deeply grooved, decurved, and is usually hooked at the tip. The rhamphotheca (covering of the bill) is composed of 7-9 plates or scales, often separated by deep grooves (the rhampotheca is composed of only one scale in most birds). It is characterized as a "compound rhamphotheca" in procellariids. Petrels have a hook on their upper bill. Smaller species have a pectinate (comb-like) lower mandible used for plankton straining.
   Procellariids have large supraorbital glands involved in osmoregulation (a bird's kidney cannot produce hypertonic urine but this gland does the job of removing and excreting excess salt from the blood). Note that birds also conserve water by excreting uric acid. Producing this insoluble waste does not require large quantities of water to flush (like the soluble and toxic urea produced by mammals). The "white-wash" around birds without nest sanitation and on "bird cliffs" is uric acid.
   Their feet are webbed (palmate) and the hallux is small or absent. Wings vary from long and narrow to short and rounded; the tail is relatively short.
   Procellariids are monogamous and most are colonial, nesting on isolated islands without terrestrial predators. [The introduction of cats, mongeese, rats, etc., may have disastrous affects on seabird colonies.] Adults show a great deal of philopatry - returning to the same island, or even the same nest, on which they hatched. Larger procellarids nest on the surface. Smaller species nest in cavities or burrows. They are monogamous and most form long-term pair bonds. Most lay only 1 egg and nest only once/year (every 2 years for the larger albatrosses). Both parents care for the chick. Young have two coats of nestling down and remain in the nest for extended feeding and care by the parents (they are semiprecocial with open eyes and dense down, but nidicolous - they stay on or near the nest). However, once fledged, parents provide no further assistance. Adults have mature down over the entire body.
   Albatrosses have wingspreads up to 12 feet or more and may have a body mass greater than 3 kg. Some of the petrels are very small (the Least Storm-Petrel is less than 6 inches long with a wing spread of 15 inches and it weighs about the same as a sparrow). Albatrosses are "dynamic soarers" - they dive into the troughs between waves, then wheel back into the air utilizing wind gradients to power their flight. Alternatively, they may also "slope soar" using their long, thin wings adapt them for following up-sloping winds above waves (pelicans also slope-soar when riding updrafts on the back side of waves or along dunes - watch a line of birds parallel a wave crest along our shore). "Static soarers" like our storks, vultures, hawks, gulls, and pelicans ride thermals -rising columns of heated air over land.
   The eggs, chicks, and adults of many species have long been used as food by humans.
 
  Waved Albatross Cape Petrel
Elliot's Storm-Petrel
 
Waved Albatross, Phoebastria irrorata. Española. Galapagos
                                      Wiki    ToL     EoL
Cape Petrel, Daption capense.
Antarctic coast.
                                  Wiki    ToL     EoL
Elliot's Storm-Petrel, Oceanites gracilis.
Bartolomé. Galapagos
                                 Wiki    ToL     EoL
   
   
   
   
     
       
       
 

 

 

 

 

   
     
  Banner - Waved Albatross. Española, Galapagos.