Feas Petrel (Pterodroma feae)

Feas Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pterodroma feae | [authority] Salvadori, 1899 | [UK] Feas Petrel | [FR] Petrel gongon | [DE] Kapverden-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel Gon-gon | [NL] Kaapverdische Stormvogel


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Pterodroma feae AO Cape Verde Is; e Atlantic Ocean


Genus Pterodroma, Pseudobulweria and Aphrodroma are also knwon as the Gadfly Petrels. They vary in size from rather small birds such as the Cookilaria-species, measuring about 26 cm, to the much larger and robust representatives of this group like the White-headed Petrel with an overall length of about 43 cm. Their plumages also vary a great deal from species to species; from completely black to light grey mantles and pure white bellies, and with different color phases within species. One feature shared by all of them is the black bill of which the shape also shows much variation. Some species are extremely rare and restricted to a very limited area, other are abundant and wander widely or have unknown pelagic ranges.
The group of the Gadfly Petrels counts over 35 species, mainly from the Southern Hemisphere. There are three genera: Pterodroma with about 30 species, Pseudobulweria counting four and Aphrodroma with only one. Many authors have tried to classify the large number of species of this group and to determine their relationships. This has resulted in a division in several subgenera and the grouping of several species which are considered to have a more or less close relationship. The taxonomic discussion has not come to an end yet: new species have been added or split recently and probably will be in the near future.

Physical charateristics

Fea’s Petrel has dark grey plumage on the upper parts of its body and underwings while the rest of its body is white. On its head the bird has a white area between its bill (black and robust) and its eyes. The other areas of its head are dark, with the top of the head being dark grey.
Commonly flies at high speed in very high (10/40 metres) ?Vs? above the sea, rarely beating its wings. There are no differences between males and females. It easily confused with Zino’s Petrels due to its similar characteristics though Fea’s / Desertas Petrels are slightly bigger with a much heavier bill.

wingspan min.: 86 cm wingspan max.: 94 cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 36 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Atlantic Ocean : Cape Verde Is; East Atlantic Ocean. Pterodroma feae breeds on four islands of Cape Verde (P. f. feae), Fogo (minimum 80 pairs), Santo Antao (minimum 200 pairs), Sao Nicolau (c.30 pairs) and small numbers on Santiago.


On the Desertas, Fea’s Petrel breeds in areas where there is a thick layer of earth covered with grass and Mesembryanthemum. On and around the southern plateau of Bugio there are places with earth more than 1 m thick, and it is essential that a sufficient depth is available for the birds to construct burrows.


On Bugio, the birds return to their breeding grounds at about the end of June and laying starts about 20 July, with breeding activity reaching its peak during early August. Birds enter the breeding sites after dark and call loudly if there is no moon, falling silent when the moon rises. The nesting burrows have varying entrance sizes and depths: the majority are more than 1 m in length and with an elbow, the nest-chamber being 30-60 cm below the surface.

Feeding habits

The species is essentially pelagic and highly adapted for living out of contact with land. Food is likely to consist of fish, cephalopods and crustaceans, often as plankton, but there is very little specific information available on diet and feeding behaviour. The birds can often be seen from the shore by day, flying and sometimes feeding.


This species is listed as Near Threatened because it probably has a small population, which breeds within a moderately small range, on five islands. It faces a number of threats, but there is presently no evidence of an overall decline. Nevertheless, its restricted breeding range leaves it moderately susceptible to stochastic events and human impacts.
The only known place in Europe where Fea’s Petrel breeds is on Bugio, southernmost island of the Desertas. The majority of burrows are to be found on the southern plateau, despite the fact that the northern plateau is more extensive, though more arid and with less vegetation. On the basis of sub-fossil Pterodroma bones, the species is believed formerly to have bred on Deserta Grande, Porto Santo and the main island of Madeira. It seems increasingly likely that it breeds in the Azores. Outside Europe it breeds in the Cape Verde Islands, where the population is believed to be of 1,000 breeding birds or roughly 500 pairs. The population on Bugio is considered to be around 150-200 breeding pairs and appears to be stable.
This species is endemic to Macaronesia and nests in Madeira archipelago (on Bugio – one of the Desertas islands) and on the Cape Verde islands of So Nicolau, Santiago, Fogo and Santo Anto.
Feas Petrel status Near Threatened


Fea’s Petrel Pterodroma feae is an extremely rare and threatened Macaronesian endemic petrel, known to exist only on Bugio and some of the Cape Verde Islands. Resident.

Distribution map

Feas Petrel distribution range map

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