Cape Petrel (Daption capense)

Cape Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Daption capense | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Cape Petrel | [FR] Damier du Cap | [DE] Kap-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel Damero | [NL] Kaapse 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

Cape petrel (Daption capense) are distinctively patterned black-and-white on their upperparts, while their underparts are mostly white. The chin and throat are blackish and the tail has a blackish tip. The underwing is white with black margins, and the bill, legs and feet are all black.

Listen to the sound of Cape Petrel

[audio: Petrel.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Daniel Lane

wingspan min.: 81 cm wingspan max.: 91 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 40 cm
incubation min.: 41 days incubation max.: 50 days
fledging min.: 47 days fledging max.: 57 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Southern Ocean, Antarctica : widespread. During breeding season, Cape Petrels feed around Antarctica’s shelf and during the winter they range further north, as far as Angola and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. They breed on many islands of Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, some going as far as the Auckland Islands, the Chatham Islands, Campbell Island (New Zealand). Their main breeding grounds were on the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), the Balleny Islands, the Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territory), as well as islands in the Scotia Sea.


The Cape Petrel is marine and pelagic, especially in winter. It occurs mainly over cold waters beyond the continental shelf, but can be found over inshore waters during breeding


The breeding season starts in November with colonies or variable sizes being formed on cliffs or steep rocky slopes. It nests in shallow crevices, in scrape on rocky ledges, on stable beds of gravel or among boulders

Feeding habits

Its diet comprises mainly of krill, but also fish, squid, offal, carrion and refuse from ships, acquiring food by hydroplaning, dipping whilst on the wing and occaisionally diving. It has been seen associated with whales and other seabirds, and congregates in large flocks around trawlers.

Video Cape Petrel


copyright: Laurent Demongin


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.
Cape petrel breed in colonies on the Antarctic continent, subtemperate islands near New Zealand and on subantarctic islands, in the South Atlantic and the South Indian Oceans.
Cape Petrel status Least Concern


Disperse and perhaps partly migratory; absent from Antarctica Apr-Aug; in subantarctic some birds apparently fairly sedentary. Ranges widely over Southern Ocean and follows cool currents into tropics, especially off W South America; occurs regularly off Galapagos Is. Several records from N Hemisphere; in some cases probably referring to birds captured and kept on ships before subsequent release

Distribution map

Cape Petrel distribution range map

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