Snowy Sheathbill

One of two sheathbill species and the only land bird native to Antarctica

Snowy Sheathbill

Name: Snowy sheathbill, pale-faced sheathbill, greater sheathbill, paddy

Height: 34 – 41 cm (13 – 16 inches)

Weight: 460 – 780 grams (1 – 1,7 pounds)

Conservation status: Not globally threatened

Diet: Krill, fish, penguin eggs and chicks

Appearance: All white plumage, medium size, resembles a hen

How do snowy sheathbills feed?

Snowy sheathbills are omnivorous and often feed by stealing food from penguins, though they are also known to eat algae, carrion, animal feces, and human refuse.

Snowy sheathbill social behavior

These birds stay close to their mates, nest sites, and general breeding territories during the warmer months. But unlike black-faced sheathbills, they are migratory. They spend winters in Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and the Falklands from April to October. During this time, snowy sheathbills live close to humans. They are known to pause on icebergs during migrations.

What is the snowy sheathbill mating ritual?

Snowy sheathbills usually mate near cormorant or penguin colonies from October to March, laying eggs between December and January. Their chicks are born in January or February and fledge in March. Snowy sheathbills usually lay two to three eggs (sometimes up to four), which they incubate for 28 – 32 days, after which fledging takes about 50 – 60 days.

Snowy sheathbill average lifespan

It is as yet unknown how long snowy sheathbills live either in captivity or the wild.

How many snowy sheathbills are there?

There are thought to be about 10,000 pairs of snowy sheathbills in the world.

Snowy sheathbill predators

There are no definite predators recorded for snowy sheathbills, though human chemical waste has been known to poison their breeding areas on occasion.

Five follow-up snowy sheathbill facts

  • Snowy sheathbills resemble hens but have body movements similar to pigeons
  • These Antarctic birds tend to breed on rocky coastlines
  • Snowy sheathbills have been known to hitch rides on ships as far north as South Africa and Europe
  • They are usually silent but sometimes make a short, throaty, crow-like call
  • Snowy sheathbills are a staff favorite and great fun to watch, sometimes walking up close to us and even riding on our Zodiacs

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