Northern Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli)

Northern Giant Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Macronectes halli | [authority] Mathews, 1912 | [UK] Northern Giant Petrel | [FR] Fulmar de Hall | [DE] Hall-Sturmvogel | [ES] Abanto marino Subantartico | [NL] Noordelijke Reuzenstormvogel


Monotypic species


Fulmars are a distinct but diverse group of petrels that evolved from an early split from the ancient tubenose lineage, around 15 My ago. Some calculated a much earlier evolution of the fulmars, more than 26 My ago or placed the origin of the fulmarines in late Oligocene > 23 My ago.
Most species of this group occur in the Southern Hemisphere. Fulmarus glacialis is the only northern representative. Although there is a great difference in size, bill shape, colouring and behaviour, the members of this group show strong similarities in their skeletal structure. The differences are very much related to the environment they occupy and their respective foraging strategies. The enourmous hooked bill of the Giant Petrel (Macronectes) is the perfect tool for this ‘vulture of the southern seas’. The small bill of the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma) and the relative broad bill of the Cape Pigeon (Daption) are each good examples of the variety of feeding strategies on the other end of the spectrum. The ‘true’ Fulmars (Fulmarus) and the Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica) take a position somewhere in between.

Physical charateristics

Giant petrel with huge bill. grey-brown body with paler forehead, sides of face and chin; bill 90-105 mm, pinkish-yellow horn tipped pink-brownish; eye grey to off-white; juvenile: completely dark brown fading with age. Similar spp. M. giganteus has whiter head, and is occasionally completely white; eye generally brown; pale leading edge to wing; tip of bill green

Listen to the sound of Northern Giant Petrel

[audio: Giant Petrel.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Daniel Lane

wingspan min.: 102 cm wingspan max.: 112 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 50 cm
incubation min.: 47 days incubation max.: 53 days
fledging min.: 46 days fledging max.: 53 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Southern Ocean : widespread. Macronectes halli breeds at South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Crozet and Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), Macquarie Island (Australia), Auckland, Campbell, Antipodes and Chatham Islands and, historically, on islets off Stewart Island (New Zealand).


The Northern Giant-Petrel is marine and oceanic. It mainly occurs in sub-Antarctic waters, but regularly occurs in Antarctic waters of the southwestern Indian Ocean, the Drake Passage and west of the Antarctic Peninsula


The Northern Giant-Petrel becomes reproductively mature at around six years of age. However, most do not commence breeding until they have reached nine to eleven years of age. The Northern Giant-Petrel seldom breeds in colonies, but usually breeds as dispersed pairs. Breeding pairs establish their nest sites in August and lay their single egg between August and October. Eggs hatch after 60 days. Breeding success of the Northern Giant-Petrel varies from 25 to 75% between sites. At Macquarie Island, the mean breeding success between 1994 and 1999 was approximately 66%. The chick fledges at around 108 days of age, and leaves for the sea between late February and late April

Feeding habits

The Northern Giant-Petrel eats seal, whale, and penguin carrion, and seal placentae. It often attends and follow ships to obtain offal. It also eats substantial quantities of euphausiids (krill) and other crustaceans, cephalopods (octopus and squid), and fish. It will kill and eat immature Albatross Diomedea, and a variety of other seabirds, which are either consumed as carrion or captured at sea. Kelp is also recorded in its diet

Video Northern Giant Petrel


copyright: Laurent Demongin


This species had been predicted to undergo a moderately rapid population decline in the near future but has instead shown a significant increase during the past two decades (probably owing to greater availability of carrion from expanding populations of fur seals, increased waste from commercial fishing operations, and the use of measures to reduce seabird bycatch around some breeding colonies). It no longer approaches the threshold for classification as Threatened and has therefore been downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern.
Northern Giant Petrel status Least Concern


Disperses widely over Southern Ocean, normally N of Antarctic Convergence. Young birds more markedly dispersive, occurring off S Africa and Australia; adults may remain within vicinity of colony.

Distribution map

Northern Giant Petrel distribution range map

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