Cape Petrel

Decked out in their distinctive dappled coloring, these dapper "little devourers" have a pigeon-like habit of pecking at the water while feeding

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Cape Petrel, Cape Pigeon, Pintado Petrel, Cape Fulmar (Daption capense)

Length: 40 cm.

Weight: 450 to 480 grams.

Location: Subantarctic islands.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Diet: Crustaceans, squid, fish.

Appearance: Black head, bill, and forewings. White patches on wings. Dappled white and black back and inner upper wings with black feather tips on wings and tail. White undersides.

How do Cape Petrels feed?

Cape Petrels do a lot of their feeding by swimming and pecking at the water to catch krill. They also occasionally dive to strain krill out from the water. In addition they are also one of the species of birds known to follow fishing vessels in order to nab fish waste that is thrown overboard.

Cape Petrels become quite aggressive while competing for food and will spray their foul-smelling stomach oil at competitors in an attempt to drive them off, even if that competition is other members of their own species.

Are Cape Petrels social?

Cape Petrels form large flocks while foraging at sea. They form loose colonies at land during the breeding season where they are quite competitive for prime nest spots.

How fast do Cape Petrels fly?

Cape Petrels fly at around 18 metres per second.

What are Cape Petrel birthing rituals like?

Cape Petrels reach sexual maturity at 5 years of age.

Cape Petrels migrate to their colony sites around the middle of October. The colonies nest on cliffs or on the level ground usually within a kilometre from the coastline. The nests are created with pebbles and are located under overhanging rock projections which are used as protection from the elements.

The majority of the mating pairs are monogamous and will mate with their partner from the previous season. A single egg is laid in November. Both parents take turns incubating the egg for the next 45 days.

Once the egg is hatched the parents will switch off caring for the chick and going off to feed, bringing back nourishment for the hatchling in the form of regurgitation.

The chicks fledge around 45 days after hatching.

How long do Cape Petrels live?

Cape Petrels live for about 25 years.

How many Cape Petrels are there today?

The Cape Petrel population is estimated at around 2,000,000 individuals worldwide.

Do Cape Petrels have any natural predators?

Skuas are predators of the Cape Petrels’ eggs and hatchlings.

7 Captivating Cape Petrel Facts

  • Cape Petrels are the only member of the Daption genus.
  • Cape Petrels share a feature with other members of the Procellariidae family – they create oil kept in a section of their stomachs called the proventriculus. The oil can be used as a source of nourishment on long flights, regurgitated to feed their young, or it can be used as a defensive measure to be sprayed at predators.
  • Another feature shared amongst Procellariidae family members is a gland located above the nasal passages that secretes a saline solution to rid excess salt ingested when feeding in salty ocean waters.
  • Cape Petrels have two subspecies:
      1. Daption capense australe – subantarctic islands near New Zealand.
      2. Daption capense capense – subantarctic islands worldwide aside from those found near New Zealand
  • Daption” comes from an ancient Greek word that means “little devourer”. “Pintado” is a Spanish word for “painted”.
  • The “Cape Pigeon” alternative name comes from the bird’s habit of pecking at water while it eats. The “Cape” in the name “Cape Petrel” refers to the Cape of Good Hope where they were first identified.  
  • Cape Petrels are the only kind of marine bird with its distinct dappled colouring.

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Cool Deal
Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica
Up to 3000 USD discount

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

Meet at least six penguin species!

HDS21-19. A cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia & the Antarctic Peninsula. Visit some of the most beautiful arrays of wildlife on Earth. This journey will introduce you to at least 6 species of penguin and a whole lot of Antarctic fur seals! Including photography workshops with Neill Drake and video...

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

3 Nov - 23 Nov, 2019

Price:

14900 USD 11900 USD 3000 USD discount

Antarctic Explorer’s Voyage
Up to 1400 USD discount

Antarctic Explorer’s Voyage

Antarctic Pioneering Voyage

PLA23-19. During this voyage, we will attempt landings that have rarely if ever been offered by Oceanwide Expeditions – or any other Antarctic cruise operator. Flexibility is key during these thrilling expeditions. Since information about most of the landing sites is limited or unknown, this target itinerary...

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

20 Nov - 30 Nov, 2019

Price:

8900 USD 7500 USD 1400 USD discount

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters
Up to 1600 USD discount

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters

Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins

OTL22-19. A true expedition, our Weddell Sea cruise sets out to explore the range of the Emperor Penguins near Snow Hill Island. We will visit the area via helicopter and see a variety of other birds and penguins including Adélies and Gentoos.

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

14 Nov - 24 Nov, 2019

Price:

12950 USD 11350 USD 1600 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Whale Watching Voyage
Up to 1150 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Whale Watching Voyage

In search for the giants of the seas

PLA31-19. The 'Classic Antarctic' route. This cruise delivers you to wondrous landscapes found in one of the harshest environments on Earth. The great star-actors of Antarctica are the penguins and in total seven species could appear before your very own eyes.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

22 Mar - 31 Mar, 2019

Price:

on request

Antarctica - Basecamp

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

OTL21-19. The Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp cruise offers you a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the Antarctic Region. This expedition allows you to hike, snowshoe, kayak, go mountaineering, and even camp out under the Southern Polar skies.

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

3 Nov - 14 Nov, 2019

Price:

9850 USD