Storm Petrel

Storm Petrel

Scientific name: Hydrobates pelagicus

Did you know: The Storm Petrel, often seen fluttering above the sea waves, is known for its unique way of feeding – it appears to walk on water!

What Do Storm Petrels Look Like? (how to identify them)

Storm Petrels are charmingly petite seabirds, slightly larger than sparrows, with a distinct appearance. They exhibit a predominantly black colouration, contrasted by a striking white rump. 

Unlike the Leach’s Petrel, their tails are square, not forked. When in flight, they are a sight to behold, fluttering just above the water with wings held high in a ‘V’ shape, their feet skimming the waves. These birds are social feeders, often seen in flocks, especially trailing behind ships in hopes of an easy meal.

Differences Between Male And Female Storm Petrels

Male and female Storm Petrels are quite similar in appearance, making it a challenge to differentiate between the two. Both share the same colouration and size, with a length of 14-18 cm and a wingspan of 36-39 cm. 

Their plumage is a mix of brown, grey, black, and white, while their legs are a subtle brown.

What Do Storm Petrels Eat?

Storm Petrels have a diet primarily consisting of plankton, fish, and crustaceans. Their feeding technique is unique – they dance across the ocean’s surface, lightly touching the water as they scoop up their prey.

Where Do Storm Petrels Live? (inc. migration info)

Storm Petrels are true wanderers of the sea. They primarily breed on isolated islands off Europe’s coasts, including the UK, Ireland, and the Faroe Islands. Fascinatingly, they migrate to the warmer waters off South Africa and Namibia during the Northern Hemisphere winter. These birds prefer marine and intertidal habitats and are rarely seen inland.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Storm Petrels)

The Storm Petrel communicates with a delightful mix of sounds. At sea, they are usually silent, but during breeding season, they make a unique purring song from their burrows. Their call is a soft chatter, often heard during their courtship flight.

Fun Storm Petrel Facts (kid friendly)

  • Storm Petrels are our smallest breeding seabird in the UK, just a tad bigger than a house martin.
  • They can live up to 11 years, which is quite impressive for such small birds.
  • These birds have an excellent sense of smell, helping them locate food over vast ocean distances.
  • They are known as “tubenoses” because of a distinct tube on their bills.
  • Storm Petrels can produce an oily orange liquid to feed their chicks.
  • Interestingly, they have a musky scent, quite rare among birds.
  • These birds are nocturnal on their breeding grounds, often singing from their nests at night.
  • They are known for their ability to ‘walk on water’ while feeding.
  • The name “Storm Petrel” is derived from the story of Saint Peter walking on water.
  • They are a symbol of good luck among sailors and are often called “Mother Carey’s chickens.”

Facts About The Storm Petrel

Diet: Fish, plankton and crustaceans.
Bird Family: Petrels and shearwaters
Length: 14-18cm
Wingspan: 36-39cm
Weight: 23-30g
Scientific Name: Hydrobates pelagicus

The Storm Petrel Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

Storm Petrel Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile