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Procellariiformes - Procellariidae
 
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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,
 
  Family Procellariidae - Shearwaters, Petrels
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  80 species, 15 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990). Clements (2007) lists 77 species in 13 genera and considers the Diving-Petrels (4 species,
1 genus) a separate family. Dickinson (2003) and Harris (2009) list 74 species in 14 genera not including the Diving-Petrels. Pelagic, all ice-free oceans. Most species are migratory, some crossing the equator. Others are more sedentary.
   Procellariids are usually seen only at sea. Many have similar characteristics and identification can be aided by observing flight styles and body shape. They are medium to large birds with heavy bodies, short tails, and long narrow wings and are maneuverable even in high winds. Flight is a series of flaps interposed with glides. When flying, they usually tuck their feet into the belly feathers. Their feet are placed relatively far back on the body (only the giant petrels walk well on land). Many species migrate.
   The bills are made of individual scales and are sharply hooked. Nostrils are located in tubes on the upper surface of the bill which has a hooked tip. The maxilla has a sharp ridge used to cut food and the two giant petrels have massive hooked bills that may be used on larger prey/food to obtain bite-size portions. Prions have lamellae used to filter plankton. They have large supraorbital ("salt") glands. All have dense plumage. The molt is typically complete.
   Their sense of smell is more highly developed than that of most birds. This may aid them in feeding at sea and may also help them find their own nesting burrows at night. Some species feed while flying, but others sit on the surface and dip. Some dive and swim underwater using their wings for propulsion. They have webbed feet involving 3 toes ("palmate").
   Most are gregarious, often feeding in small to large flocks attracted to rich food sources. They forage by diving from the surface (up to 70 m) or plunge-diving from the wing. They pursue food underwater, feed from the surface, or catch flying fish "on the wing."  They may feed day or night. Prey items bears some relation to the body size of the species. They take squid, fish, crustaceans, jellyfish, and other marine organisms. Prions feed on plankton. Some take carrion. Many species are attracted to fishing boats and chum. Giant petrels (Macronectes) feed on carrion scavenged on land and may be predators on seal pups, penguin chicks, other birds and smaller procellariids.
   Most procellariids delay breeding until they are at least 3-12 years old. They are monogamous. Adults may pair for life and often reuse the same nest year after year. The nest in colonies. Smaller species often use burrows and are active mainly at night (to escape predation by gulls, larger procellariids, hawks, etc.) Larger species nest on cliffs or in the open and are active during the day. They lay one egg. Both parents incubate (6-9 weeks) and care for the chick. They feed the chick on regurgitated prey and stomach oil. They often leave the chick after it is fully grown - the young bird is left to launch itself to sea on its own as it perfects it ability to fly (6-15 days).
   Procellariids may be divided into four groups:

   Fulmars (Fulmarus) and Giant Petrels (Macronectes) (plus Snow Petrel, Antarctic Petrel, Cape Petrel) are stocky seabrids linked by their long
       prominent nasal tubes..
   Gadfly Petrels (Pterodroma, Bulweria) have robust bodies, thick necks and blunt heads with long, pointed tails. A "M" pattern may appear
       across the upper wing formed by primaries and the coverts. They cover large tracts on dynamic, high arcs over the sea. Most nest in burrows
        but spend the majority of their life at sea. They are named for their helter-skelter flight.
   Shearwaters (Calonectris, Puffinus, Procellaria) are large with long wings. They have slow, languid wing-beats and arc high above the water
        with a buoyant flight. They are adapted for diving after prey instead of surface-foraging. Some undertake long trans-equatorial migrations.
   Prions (Pachyptila, Halobaena) are small procellariids that breed on sub-Antarctic islands. They feed on plankton.

   Note that the Diving-petrels are often included in this family.
 
  Family Pelecanoididae - Diving-petrels
Wiki     ToL   EoL
  4 species, 1 genus (Pelecanoides). South America, Australia, New Zealand.
    Diving-petrels are the southern hemisphere counterparts of smaller alcids (auks) of the northern hemisphere. They are relatively small and stocky. Their nostrils are slightly separated and they have no hallux. They have a relatively short, hooked mandible with the tube nostrils opening upward from the culmen ridge. Their feet are palmate and their legs are compressed and placed far back on the body - they are awkward on land and, like penguins, may toboggan rather than walk. Their wings are short and seldom used in flight - they swim and dive expertly. They have to run on the surface to gain speed when taking flight. They feed on plankton and have a gular pouch to carry food to their young. Sexes are alike. Chicks hatch with a coat of down which is replaced with adult plumage.
   Adults are often solitary or found in small groups when feeding. They feed on plankton - krill and copepods, and small fish and squid. They may use their wings to pursue prey underwater to depths of 200 feet or more.
   Diving-petrels breed when 2-3 years of age. They are monogamous and nest in colonies in short burrows with a camouflaged entrance. They are active at night to avoid predation. The female lays 1 egg. Incubation lasts 7-8 weeks and the chick is brooded for another 2 weeks. After leaving the burrow, the young have no further contact with their parents.
   Diving-petrels are among the most numerous birds of the world.
     
 
Petrels

Procellariids off the coast of Chile. Possible White-chinned Petrel, Procellaria aequinoctalis? (left) and Pink-footed Shearwater, Puffinus creatopus? (right).

Petrel     Wiki     ToL     EoL
Shearwater     Wiki     ToL     EoL

 
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
 


   
  Banner - Cape Pigeons (Petrels). Kaikoura, NZ.