Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica)

Antarctic Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Thalassoica antarctica | [authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [UK] Antarctic Petrel | [FR] Fulmar antarctique | [DE] Antarktik-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel Antartico | [NL] Antarctische Stormvogel


Monotypic species


Fulmars are a distinct but diverse group of petrels that evolved from an early split from the ancient tubenose lineage, around 15 My ago. Some calculated a much earlier evolution of the fulmars, more than 26 My ago or placed the origin of the fulmarines in late Oligocene > 23 My ago.
Most species of this group occur in the Southern Hemisphere. Fulmarus glacialis is the only northern representative. Although there is a great difference in size, bill shape, colouring and behaviour, the members of this group show strong similarities in their skeletal structure. The differences are very much related to the environment they occupy and their respective foraging strategies. The enourmous hooked bill of the Giant Petrel (Macronectes) is the perfect tool for this ‘vulture of the southern seas’. The small bill of the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma) and the relative broad bill of the Cape Pigeon (Daption) are each good examples of the variety of feeding strategies on the other end of the spectrum. The ‘true’ Fulmars (Fulmarus) and the Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica) take a position somewhere in between.

Physical charateristics

The adult Antarctic Petrel has a brown head, sides, throat, and back. Their bill is black and their feet are yellow. Their underparts are white and their tail and secondaries on their wings are white with brown tips

Listen to the sound of Antarctic Petrel

[audio: Petrel.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 100 cm wingspan max.: 110 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 46 cm
incubation min.: 45 days incubation max.: 48 days
fledging min.: 42 days fledging max.: 47 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Southern Ocean, Antarctica : widespread. Antarctic petrel are mainly confined to the vicinity of the pack-ice, icebergs, ice floes, Antarctic seas and the Antarctic continent. Flocks are characteristically seen sitting on the ridges of icebergs. In late winter, they are occasionally recorded from Australia and New Zealand


This species is found along the whole Antarctic coastline, also breeding on nearby islands


The Antarctic Petrel nests on snow-free cliffs and rock faces. Nesting sites are mostly coastal or on offshore islands, but it has been found to nest up to 250 km inland. Antarctic petrel return to their nest in October to November and lay one elongated ovoid egg. They usually nest in clefts, crevices and on ledges on sloping rocky cliffs in snow-free areas. The incubation and nestling periods are 45-48 days and 42-47 days respectively. Fledglings from the same colony may remain together in flocks. Two chicks banded in the same colony were recovered 6 years later, 780 km from the colony. Hatching success ranges between 70 and 90% at colonies studied at the Haswell Islands and the Windmill Islands. Egg loss was mainly due to eggs rolling out of nests and subsequently freezing. Egg predation by South polar skuas also occurs.

Feeding habits

The diet of this species is comprised mostly of krill, but also fish and squid. Prey is obtained mostly by surface-seizing but diving from the air and surface is also seen

Video Antarctic Petrel


copyright: Peter Fraser


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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not 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.
Antarctic petrel are gregarious at sea and roost on icebergs in flocks comprising thousands of birds. Breeding colonies range from a few nests to more than 200,000 pairs. At Haswell Island, the mean distance between nests was 1 m, and the minimum was 0.3 m.
Antarctic Petrel status Least Concern


Little known; dispersive within normal extent of floating ice, rarely straying far; could be partially migratory. Some birds move N in winter, reaching Antarctic Convergence and sometimes beyond; others remain around edge of ice. Vagrant to South Africa, New Zealand and Tasmania

Distribution map

Antarctic Petrel distribution range map

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