White-faced Storm-petrel (Pelagodroma marina)

White-faced Storm-petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Hydrobatidae | [latin] Pelagodroma marina | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] White-faced Storm-petrel | [FR] Oceanite fregate | [DE] Weissgesicht-Sturmschwalbe | [ES] Paino Pechialbo | [NL] Bont Stormvogeltje


Monotypic species


Storm-petrels are rather small and often dark colored tubenoses with a world wide distribution. All have fine black bills with very pronounced tubes. Storm Petrels are separated in two groups: the long legged, Southern Hemisphere birds subfamily Oceanitinae and the shorter legged species of more northern seas the subfamily Hydrobatinae. The first groups shows more morphological differences than the second. The genera are characterised on colour patterns, the condition of the nasal tubes, tail shape, structure of claws and proportions of the leg bones. The genus Pelagodroma have their plumage grey and white; tails slightly forked; bill long, nasal tube < half culmen in length; tarsus booted in front, webs black, basal joint middle toe flattened, claws blunt and flattened.

Physical charateristics

This small marine bird is relatively easy to identify by its long yellow legs and its peculiar flight in which it appears to “bounce” from side to side over the sea surface. The underside of its body is white with the underside of the wings having a dark outline. The bird’s face is also light coloured with a dark linear mark through the eye. Its back and wings are dark grey and the bird has a white rump patch.

wingspan min.: 41 cm wingspan max.: 44 cm
size min.: 19 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 48 days incubation max.: 53 days
fledging min.: 50 days fledging max.: 53 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Tropical Ocean, Temperate Ocean : widespread. The White-faced Storm-petrel breeds on remote islands in the south Atlantic, such as Tristan da Cunha (St Helena to UK) and also on the coast Australia and New Zealand. There are north Atlantic colonies on the Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, Spain and Savage Islands, Pacific Oceanrtugal. Outside the breeding season birds from the Atlantic have been seen off the east coast of North America and South America, and off the western coast of Central Africa. Breeds from Australia and New Zealand range as far as the northern Indian Ocean and the north-west coast of South Americ


Localized in west Palearctic within warm oceanic waters, apparently shifting mainly west and south over deep waters when not breeding, but some coastal visitation off Africa, and susceptible to storm displacements. Seldom, if ever, follows ships. Comes to land only to breed colonially on arid, undisturbed, small islands, sometimes volcanic and rising 100 m or more; nesting areas usually flat with enough soil to permit burrowing, often among low vegetation.


Both parent birds excavate the deep nest in sandy ground. On the Selvagens islands, the nests are protected by two types of plant of the species Mesembryanthenum cristallinum and M. nodiflorum. The roots of these plants hold up the nest tunnel accesses. A single egg is laid at the end of March and the chick hatches in May. Eight to ten weeks later the young bird is already flying.

Feeding habits

The food of the White-faced Storm Petrel consists of pelagic crustaceans, small fish and other small surface plankton.
The species often forages off the bows and to the sides of stationary fishing trawlers. One of the most noticeable characteristics of this bird is the way it bounces off the water while feeding. Often described as riding a pogo stick, the bird touches the water and then bounds up, only to hit the water again like a bouncing basketball. This flight will separate it from a large flock of other Storm-petrels even at a distance.

Video White-faced Storm-petrel


copyright: B. Clibbon


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Pelagodroma marina breeds on the Selvagens (in the Madeiran archipelago) and on islets off Lanzarote (in the Canary Islands), with Europe accounting for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (c.61,000 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although the species remained stable overall during 1990-2000, the entire European breeding population
is confined to fewer than six locations, with >99% of birds breeding in an area smaller than 3 km2 on the Selvagens.
White-faced Storm-petrel status Least Concern


Migratory and dispersive. Movements of North Atlantic populations little known. Two races involved: hypoleuca breeds Selvagens in northern summer, returning to colonies from February, departing end September; eadesi breeds Cape Verde Islands in northern winter, returning about November. Occurs around Canaries and Madeiran group, presumably feeding in Canary Current upwelling. Surprisingly few pelagic reports, most offshore from west and north-west Africa from 9 degrees -35 degrees N and 13 degrees -25 degrees W, especially off Morocco and Mauritania.

Distribution map

White-faced Storm-petrel distribution range map


Title Olfactory foraging strategies of procellariiform seabirds
Author(s): Gabrielle A. Nevitt
Abstract: The study of olfactory foraging ability in procell..[more]..
Source: Acta Zoologica Sinica 52(Supplement): 510-513, 2006

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