Murphys Petrel (Pterodroma ultima)

Murphys Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pterodroma ultima | [authority] Murphy, 1949 | [UK] Murphys Petrel | [FR] Petrel de Murphy | [DE] Murphy-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel de Murphy | [NL] Murphy’s Stormvogel


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Pterodroma ultima PO sc


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

Large petrel, overall grey or grey-brown body and pale throat. Underwings have pale bars. Legs and feet are pale, toes have black distal webbing. Typical small white area around base of bill.

wingspan min.: 95 cm wingspan max.: 99 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 41 cm
incubation min.: 50 days incubation max.: 54 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : Southcentral. Pterodroma ultima breeds in the Pitcairn Islands (to UK), the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Austral Islands4 and the Gambier Islands (French Pacific Oceanlynesia) and perhaps in the Cook Islands.


Breeds between and under rocky cliffs, outside breeding season pelagic.


Has been recorded nesting in rocky cliffs during March. One white egg is laid in a burrow excavated by both parents. Incubation ranges from 50 to 54 days and is carried out by both parents.

Feeding habits

Feeds on squid and crustaceans; forages in flight, snatching prey at or near the water surface

Video Murphys Petrel


copyright: Peter Fraser


This species qualifies as Near Threatened because although rats have been eradicated at the largest breeding population, the population continues to slowly decline within its moderately small range.
Pacific rat Rattus exulans is present on some islands, and causes low breeding success on Henderson in particular. The species is potentially threatened by climate change because it has a geographically bounded distribution: it is restricted to an island or islands with a maximum altitude of 33 m
Murphys Petrel status Near Threatened


Probably disperses within tropical Pacific. Recorded N to Hawaii and Oregon.

Distribution map

Murphys Petrel distribution range map

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