European Storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)

Taxonomy

Probably monotypic, although there are claims for a second subspecies (H. p. melitensis) within the Mediterranean.

Also (inappropriately) known as British Storm-petrel. Richard Millington has suggested (tongue-in-cheek) that the species be named Irish Storm-petrel because the bulk of the world population nest in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland (Millington and Lewington, 1993).
 

Identification

A very small storm-petrel. Wings short and more-obviously rounded than say Wilson's Storm-petrel. Tail, short and square-ended, although may seem rounded when fanned. Feet do not project in flight. Only a hint of a pale carpal bar on the upper surface of the wing (not visible from any distance), however has a very diagnositic white bar on the underside of the wing (greater secondary underwing coverts and median primary underwing coverts).

Flight rather bat-like, with almost continuous fluttering interspersed with short glides and twists and turns. When feeding, flutters with wings held in a shallow V and feet pattering on the surface. Does not 'walk' on water to the same extent as Wilson's Strom-petrel. Will follow active trawlers or come into chum. May form large rafts. Rather swallow- or wader-like in powered flight.
 

Where and When

Breeding is restricted to the Western Paearctic region. Iceland (Westman Islands), Loften Islands, British Isles, islets off Brittany region of France, Biarritz and Northern Spain, The Canary Islands, Islets off Mediterranean Spain, France, Balearic Islands, islets of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, elba, Italy, the Balkans and Greece. Total population estimated at 130,000-290,000 (Enticott and Tipling, 1997)

Found at sea off breeding areas during northern summer then migrates south reaching to the south Atlantic off Southern Africa (Namibia, South Africa and Natal) south to 38 deg. S.. Mediterranean population may remain within Mediterranean. One or two specimen records for North America (e.g. August 1970, Sable Island Nova Scotia). More resistant to being wrecked by storms than the larger Leach's Storm-petrel.
 

Photographs on the web

Adult (banded) near nesting crevice in Norway. Photo by Frode Falkenberg
 
 

Literature

Millington, R. and Lewington, I. (1993) In praise of petrels. Birding World p282-283.

Stone, C. J., A. Webb, & M. L. Tasker. (1995) The distribution of auks and Procellariiformes in north-west European waters in relation to depth of sea. Bird Study 42: 50-56



Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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