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A photo of a Cape Petrel (Daption capense)
Cape Petrel

Cape Petrel

Daption capense

The Cape petrel, also known as the Cape pigeon, pintado petrel, or Cape fulmar, is a distinctive seabird of the Southern Ocean. It is the sole representative of the genus Daption within the Procellariidae family. This bird is easily recognized by its piebald plumage, a pattern of black and white that has earned it the nickname 'pintado' from Portuguese navigators, meaning 'painted'. With an estimated population of around 2 million individuals, the Cape petrel is a common sight in its native habitats.

Identification Tips

Adult Cape petrels exhibit a striking black and white speckled pattern across their back, upperwings, and tail, with the latter also featuring a black band. Their heads and necks are cloaked in black, while their bellies, breasts, and underwings are predominantly white, edged with black. These birds have a wingspan ranging from 80 to 90 centimeters and a body length of 35 to 40 centimeters.


The Cape petrel is a pelagic bird that is found in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. It is particularly associated with the Antarctic shelf during the breeding season.


These birds breed on various subantarctic and Antarctic islands, with colonies established on the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, the Balleny Islands, and the Kerguelen Islands, among others. In the non-breeding season, they can venture as far north as Angola and the Galapagos Islands.


Cape petrels are known for their aggressive feeding behavior, often spitting stomach oil at competitors, including members of their own species. They are also known to follow ships, scavenging on edible waste and offal discarded overboard.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Cape petrel is predominantly composed of crustaceans, accounting for 80% of their intake, with krill being a particular favorite. They also consume fish and squid. These birds employ surface seizing and underwater diving techniques to filter their prey from the ocean.


Cape petrels are colonial nesters, preferring to establish their breeding grounds on cliffs or level ground within close proximity to the sea. Their nests, crafted from pebbles and shells, are often sheltered under overhanging rocks or within crevices for protection. Both sexes share the responsibility of incubating their single white egg for 45 days. The chicks, once hatched, are brooded for ten days and then fed by both parents until they fledge after approximately 45 days.

Conservation Status

With a vast range of occurrence and a robust adult population estimated at 2 million, the Cape petrel is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. Their numbers appear to be stable, indicating no immediate threats to their conservation status.

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