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A photo of a White-faced Storm Petrel (Pelagodroma marina)
White-faced Storm Petrel

White-faced Storm Petrel

Pelagodroma marina

The White-faced Storm Petrel, Pelagodroma marina, is a diminutive seabird with a distinctive appearance. It measures between 19 to 21 centimeters in length and boasts a wingspan of 41 to 44 centimeters. Its upperparts are a pale brown to grey, while the underparts are pure white. This petrel is easily recognized by its white face, which is contrasted by a striking black eye mask reminiscent of a phalarope. The combination of its plumage and facial markings render it one of the more identifiable petrels when observed at sea.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the White-faced Storm Petrel, look for its unique flight pattern, which includes a direct gliding motion. Its black flight feathers are a key distinguishing feature, as is its habit of pattering across the water's surface. The white underparts and face, coupled with the black mask, are also telltale signs of this species.

Habitat

This species is strictly pelagic, spending the majority of its life on the open ocean. It is rarely seen from land, except occasionally during severe storms when it may be blown closer to shore.

Distribution

The White-faced Storm Petrel has a broad range, with breeding colonies located on remote islands in the south Atlantic, including Tristan da Cunha, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. In the north Atlantic, colonies can be found on the Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, and Savage Islands.

Behaviour

Outside of breeding season, the White-faced Storm Petrel is a sociable bird, often seen in groups, though it does not typically follow ships. Its foraging technique involves skimming the ocean surface, lightly touching the water as it feeds on planktonic food items. On land, its mobility is limited, with a walk that is more of a shuffle to its burrow.

Breeding

The White-faced Storm Petrel nests in colonies close to the sea, utilizing rock crevices to lay a single white egg. It is nocturnal at breeding sites to evade predators such as gulls and skuas, and may avoid landing on clear, moonlit nights.

Similar Species

While there are other petrels in the north Atlantic, the White-faced Storm Petrel's white underparts and facial features make it distinguishable from its relatives.

Diet and Feeding

This petrel feeds on planktonic organisms, which it picks from the ocean's surface in a unique foraging behavior that involves tapping the water with its feet.

Conservation status

The White-faced Storm Petrel is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population across its extensive range.

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White-faced Storm Petrels on Birda

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Fregetta grallaria
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