Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea)

Snow Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pagodroma nivea | [authority] Forster, 1777 | [UK] Snow Petrel | [FR] Fulmar des neiges | [DE] Schnee-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel Niveo | [NL] Sneeuwstormvogel


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

Unmistakable within their range, these birds are pure white with a small black bill.

wingspan min.: 75 cm wingspan max.: 95 cm
size min.: 30 cm size max.: 40 cm
incubation min.: 41 days incubation max.: 49 days
fledging min.: 41 days fledging max.: 54 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Southern Ocean, Antarctica : widespread. The Snow Petrel is found exclusively on Antarctica and some neighbouring islands, including South Georgia (Georgia del Sur) and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Sandwich del Sur)


This marine species is closely linked with pack ice, occuring mainly in areas with 10-50% ice cover. Breeding starts in November in most areas, forming colonies of variable size on cliffs and rock faces up to 325 km inland and at altitudes of as much as 2400 m


Their nests are simple pebble-lined scrapes usually in a deep rock crevices with overhanging protection. One egg is laid in late November to mid-December. The egg is incubated for 41 to 49 days and the chick is brooded for 8 days. They fledge 7 weeks later in late February to mid-May

Feeding habits

It feeds mainly on krill, fish, squid and carrion, feeding mainly on the wing by dipping but also by diving and surface-seizing.

Video Snow Petrel


copyright: John Gregory


This species has an extremely 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 extremely 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.
They are not globally threatened. Eggs and chicks may be taken by skuas, but extremes of weather are a more serious cause of mortality.
Snow Petrel status Least Concern


Little known; relatively sedentary in places, most birds staying within vicinity of colony all year round, dispersing only to adjacent waters. Seldom strays far from pack ice except at northernmost breeding grounds (Bouvetoya, South Georgia).

Distribution map

Snow Petrel distribution range map

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