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 - Basecamp

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

PLA22-21 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:

11 Nov - 23 Nov, 2021


8500 USD

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

Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins

OTL22-21 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, 2021


11300 USD


Classic Antarctica including Deception Island

PLA24-21 This Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

12 Dec - 22 Dec, 2021


7300 USD

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

Meet at least six penguin species

OTL24-21 This Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctic Peninsula cruise is an animal-lover’s dream come true. The expedition explores one of the last untamed areas on Earth – a land of ruggedly beautiful landscapes and amazingly varied wildlife.

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

13 Dec, 2021 - 3 Jan, 2022


15500 USD

Antarctica - Discovery and learning voyage

The 'Classic Antarctic' route

JNS23-21 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 Janssonius

m/v Janssonius

Cruise date:

14 Dec - 23 Dec, 2021


6650 USD