Fulmar Prion (Pachyptila crassirostris)

Fulmar Prion

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pachyptila crassirostris | [authority] Mathews, 1912 | [UK] Fulmar Prion | [FR] Prion a bec epais | [DE] Dickschnabel-Sturmvogel | [ES] Pato petrel Picogrueso | [NL] Dikbekprion


Monotypic species


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

Their upperparts are pale blue-grey, with a distinct black M on the upperwings and an extensive black terminal tail-band (the broadest among the prions). Their bill is stouter and slightly more robust than fairy prions. Predominately white underparts with poorly developed pale grey breast-sides, but quite characteristic washed slightly greyish, becoming extensively bluish at the rear, just behind the vent.

wingspan min.: 58 cm wingspan max.: 62 cm
size min.: 24 cm size max.: 28 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  


Southern Ocean : South Indian Ocean, New Zealand. The Fulmar Prion is pelagic and stays over the southern oceans close to colonies. When breeding they will come ashore, and nest on Heard Island (Australia) in the south Indian Ocean, as well as the Auckland Islands, Chatham Islands, Bounty Island and Snares Island off the coast of New Zealand


This marine species occurs in both pelagic and inshore waters.


Breeding occurs in colonies starting in October, nesting on coastal cliffs and boulder slopes in rock crevices and cracks. They lay one egg in October/November and hatching occurs mid to late December.

Feeding habits

Its diet comprises mostly of crustaceans but fish, squid and molluscs are also taken. They take their food by surface-seizing or shallow-diving, principally close to shore.

Video Fulmar Prion


copyright: Peter Fraser


This species has a very 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 very 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.
Fulmar Prion status Least Concern


Largely sedentary, with adults roosting in nest virtually all year round, and regularly seen in surrounding waters. Unconfirmed records from Australia and South Africa.

Distribution map

Fulmar Prion distribution range map

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