Goulds Petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera)

Goulds Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pterodroma leucoptera | [authority] Gould, 1844 | [UK] Goulds Petrel | [FR] Petrel de Gould | [DE] Weissflugel-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel de Gould | [NL] Goulds Stormvogel


Monotypic species


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

Gould’s Petrel has a body length of 30cm, a wingspan of 75cm and a weight of approximately 180g. The upper surface of its long narrow wings has a distinctive ?M’ pattern. This, together with a darker head, distinguishes the species from other Pterodroma of similar size. The underside of the body and wings are white, with a dark edge to the wing. Sexes appear identical and immature birds fledge in adult plumage.

wingspan min.: 69 cm wingspan max.: 72 cm
size min.: 28 cm size max.: 30 cm
incubation min.: 47 days incubation max.: 50 days
fledging min.: 89 days fledging max.: 93 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : Southwest. Gould’s Petrel breeds primarily on Cabbage Tree Island which lies offshore from the entrance to Pacific Oceanrt Stephens NSW. This 30ha island was thought to be the sole breeding locality for this species until a few nesting birds were discovered on nearby Boondelbah Island (Priddel and Carlile 1996). The non-breeding range and feeding areas of the Gould’s Petrel are unknown, but it appears that the species forages predominantly within the Tasman Sea.


Nesting habitat is concentrated in two steep gullies on the western side of Cabbage Tree Island. The gullies are characterised by steep rock-scree slopes with a canopy of Cabbage Tree Palms (Livistona australis) and several species of figs. Fallen palm fronds provide protection from the weather and concealment from avian predators.


Gould’s Petrel arrives on Cabbage Tree Island from mid to late September. Egg laying takes place over a six-week period commencing in early November. Gould’s Petrels lay a single egg and, if lost, the egg is not replaced. Incubation takes 49 days to complete, and usually involves incubation shifts of around 16 – 17 days duration. The young remain in the nest for about 13 weeks, during which time they can achieve weights of around 150% of their parents. Fledglings depart the island from late March to early May. Gould’s Petrel are monogamous and pair bonds appear to be longstanding.

Feeding habits

Gould’s petrel feeds mostly on cephalopods, krill and small fish, which it picks off the surface while foraging at sea. It has occasionally been recorded feeding in association with other seabirds, as well as with tuna and dolphins that drive prey to the surface

Video Goulds Petrel


copyright: Peter Fraser


This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small breeding range and a small number of breeding locations, and may be declining overall owing to predation by introduced mammals. Although the Australian breeding population is currently increasing through conservation action, the New Caledonian population is undoubtedly in decline.
Goulds Petrel status Vulnerable


Very little known. Race brevipes thought to be largely sedentary, other races apparently leave breeding zones, possibly dispersing E into tropical and subtropical Pacific, records from New Zealand and Galapagos.

Distribution map

Goulds Petrel distribution range map

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