Wilson's Storm Petrel

These storm-savvy seabirds are the smallest warm-bodied creatures to breed in Antarctica, evading the most violent tempests by flying in the troughs of waves

Wilson's Storm Petrel

Name: Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Wilson’s Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)

Length: 16 – 18.5 cm (6 – 7.3 inches)

Weight: 40 grams

Location: Southern hemisphere worldwide, some points in northern hemisphere during summer.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Diet: Plankton, fish, krill.

Appearance: Sooty grey to black with a prominent white “belt” between the breast/shoulders and the tail. Wings are short and rounded.

How do Wilson’s Storm Petrels feed?

Wilson’s Storm Petrels have the ability to hover just above the water’s surface in order to pluck at plankton just underneath. Their feet will dip in at a spot in the water (perhaps to attract prey), the bird will nab the food, and then it will flutter to a new spot a little ways away.

They will also sometimes make rare dives in order to nab small fish.

What are Wilson’s Storm Petrel birthing rituals like?

Wilson’s Storm Petrels mature sexually at around 4 years of age.

Nesting occurs between November through May, the exact starting time depending somewhat on where in the world a particular bird is located. Colonies are located close to the sea. Nests are built in crevices in rocks or in burrows in the earth. A single white egg is laid.

The adults go foraging for food only at night in order to avoid detection by predatory birds such as Gulls and Skua. They find their nests in the dark by smell.

Both parents will take turns incubating (about 2½ months) the egg and then feeding the chick once it has hatched. Chicks are brooded for about 2 months.

Hatchlings will finally leave the nest anywhere from 50 to 100 days after hatching, the time seeming to depend on how much they were fed during the brooding period.

How long do Wilson’s Storm Petrels live?

Wilson’s Storm Petrels can live for up to 20 years in the wild.

How many Wilson’s Storm Petrels are there today?

Estimates put the Wilson’s Storm Petrel worldwide population at over 30 million individuals.

Do Wilson’s Storm Petrels have any natural predators?

Wilson’s Storm Petrels young and eggs are preyed upon by Skuas, Gulls, Owls, and Falcons. Because of their small size adults may also be taken by Falcons.

7 Wonderful Wilson’s Storm Petrel Facts

1. Wilson’s Storm Petrels are one of the most numerous birds in the world.

2. The bird is named after Alexander Wilson, a Scottish-American naturalist who is called the “Father of American Ornithology.”

3. The “Storm” in the bird’s name refers to the idea that the appearance of flocks of the bird foretold of a coming storm.

4. Wilson’s Storm Petrels are the smallest warm-blooded animal to breed in the Antarctic.

5. During storms at sea Wilson’s Storm Petrels will fly in the troughs of waves in order to take some sort of cover.  

6. Females are larger than the males.

7. The name “Petrel” refers to Saint Peter and was given to the species because the birds’ hovering makes them look like they are walking on water.    

Related cruises

Antarctica - Weddell Sea Explorer

Take an exploratory expedition through some of Antarctica’s most wildlife-rich waters.

PLA29-23 The great Weddell Sea not only features massive tabular icebergs, wildly dramatic landscapes, and fascinating historical sites, but it is also one of the best places in Antarctica for viewing iconic wildlife like whales, seals and many other rarely seen...

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

11 Feb - 22 Feb, 2023

Price:

8400 USD

Ross Sea | Incl. helicopters - Campbell Island - Macquarie Island - Polar Circle - Ross Sea - Peter I Island - Antarctic Peninsula
Up to 14850 discount

Ross Sea | Incl. helicopters - Campbell Island - Macquarie Island - Polar Circle - Ross Sea - Peter I Island - Antarctic Peninsula

Experience some of the far south’s most scenic locations on both sides of the antarctic circle, including Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, and Antarctica’s seldom-visited Ross Sea, which we plan to explore with helicopters

OTL28-23 Sail to the southern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Island, the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas into the Ross Sea. Visiting the Ross Ice-shelf, Dry Valleys, McMurdo Station, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island and the historic huts of Scott...

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

17 Feb - 20 Mar, 2023

Price:

17050 USD

Antarctica - 'Basecamp'- free camping, kayaking, snowshoe/hiking, mountaineering, photo workshop

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

HDS29-23 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 Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

20 Feb - 4 Mar, 2023

Price:

on request

Antarctica - Polar Circle - Discovery and learning voyage
Up to 1800 discount

Antarctica - Polar Circle - Discovery and learning voyage

Crossing the Polar Circle

HDS30-23 This Polar Circle and Antarctic Peninsula cruise passes through waters travelled by Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Anchoring in various spots around the region, the expedition offers the chance to hike, kayak, and dive in the iceberg-heavy waters.

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

4 Mar - 14 Mar, 2023

Price:

7650 USD

Antarctica - 'Basecamp'- free camping, kayaking, snowshoe/hiking, mountaineering, photo workshop

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

PLA31-23 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 Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

8 Mar - 20 Mar, 2023

Price:

8850 USD

Loading