Fairy Prion (Pachyptila turtur)

Fairy Prion

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pachyptila turtur | [authority] Kuhl, 1820 | [UK] Fairy Prion | [FR] Prion colombe | [DE] Feen-Sturmvogel | [ES] Pato petrel Piquicorto | [NL] Duifprion


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Pachyptila turtur SO widespread


Prions are a race of abundant small petrels from the Antarctic and subantarctic region with very similar plumages: a white body, bluish grey upperparts with a dark M on the back and upper sides of the wings when seen from above. Although there is considerable difference in measurements, the main difference between the species lies in the shape of the bills. These vary from small ‘pointed’ via ‘fulmarish’ to extreme broad. Characteristic are the lamellae along the sides of the palate in all species. These form a sieving structure to filter small food particles from the water. The development of these lamellae and grooves vary depending on the species. Bills of all Prions are bluish, except in the Broad-billed which has a blackish bill. Identification of the Prions at sea is very difficult. Therefore much of the pelagic distribution is unknown.
The taxonomy of the Prions is difficult and possibly not yet fully understood. It is mainly based on size and structure of the bill. But since there is a lot of intraspecific variability and intergradation between the recognized species and subspecies, the discussion on this topic is not closed yet. The list below shows the seven species that are accepted generally, including the recent separation of the MacGillivrayi’s Prion.

Physical charateristics

A small, oceanic petrel, the fairy prion has a pale body and blue-gray upper wings with a distinct, M-shaped black band

Listen to the sound of Fairy Prion

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/PROCELLARIIFORMES/Procellariidae/sounds/Fairy Prion.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Todd Mark

wingspan min.: 56 cm wingspan max.: 60 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 28 cm
incubation min.: 53 days incubation max.: 57 days
fledging min.: 48 days fledging max.: 56 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Southern Ocean : widespread. The Fairy Prion is found throughout oceans and coastal areas in the Southern Hemisphere. Their colonies can be found, amongst other places, on the Chatham Islands, Snares Islands and Antipodes Islands of New Zealand, the Bass Strait Islands of Australia, the Crozet Islands (French Southern Territories) in the south Indian Ocean and the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia (Georgia del Sur) in the south Atlantic


This marine species apparently occurs mainly offshore, but may move inshore during stormy weather


Nest is built in burrows on cliffs and rock falls. Also in grassland with limited vegetation. Breeding begins in September, and incubation lasts for about 55 days. The chick is fed for 43 to 56 days, after which the birds leave the colony.

Feeding habits

Its diet is comprised mostly of crustaceans (especially krill), but occaisionally includes some fish and squid. It feeds mainly by surface-seizing and dipping, but can also catch prey by surface-plunging or pattering. It often assocaites with other prions and storm-petrels when feeding around boats.

Video Fairy Prion


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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.
Fairy Prion status Least Concern


Most birds leave vicinity of colony, probably moving N into subtropical waters; most common off Australia and South Africa in winter. Some may disperse only to seas adjacent to colonies; birds occur at colonies on Crozet Is throughout winter.

Distribution map

Fairy Prion distribution range map

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