Annotated List of the Seabirds of the World - Fulmars, Petrels and allies

Conservation rankings are from the preliminary guidelines set out by BirdLife International and posted to Seabirds Internet discussion group by John Cooper.
Systematics and evolution of the Fulmars and Petrels

The state of petrel taxonomy is nicely summarized by del Hoyo et al. (Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol 1, pg. 216), who state:

'The taxonomy of the Procellaridae is extraordinarily complex , and it is consequently subject to frequent revisions, and more than its fair share of polemic.'

It is generally accepted that the Family Procellariidae can be split into four broad groupings; the fulmars (Fulmarus), the gadfly-petrels (Pterodroma), the prions (Pachyptila) and the shearwaters (Puffinus). However, within these convenient groupings there are many real problems and uncertainties. Indeed a number of revolutionary changes have been suggested, some based on good reasoning.

Southern Giant Petrel. Photo copyright of Ron Saldino.

Giant Petrels and Fulmars

While the Fulmars and Giant Petrels show significant size and plumage differences there are strong affinties in terms of diet and ecology. This group comprises two sibling species; the two Giant petrels (long considered as conspecific) and the two Fulmars. It is very likely that this group evolved in the southern hemisphere and that the Northern Fulmar reflects a subsequent colonization of the northern hemisphere. Whether the Cape Petrel, Antarctic Petrel and Snow Petrel should be included within this group is debatable and are therefore kept separate here.

Macronectes giganteus Southern Giant Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Also known as Antarctic Giant-Petrel, Giant Fulmar and Stinker

Macronectes halli Northern Giant Petrel (NEAR THREATENED)
Also known as Hall's Giant-Petrel

Fulmarus glacialis Northern Fulmar
F. g. glacialis
F. g. auduboni
F. g. rodgersii

Also known as Arctic Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialoides Southern Fulmar
Also known as Antarctic Fulmar, Silver-grey Fulmar, Slender-billed Fulmar, Silver-grey Petrel

'Pterodroma' Petrels

The gadfly-petrels comprise between 30 and 40 species of medium-sized tubenosed seabirds. Many are poorly known and are threatened or even endangered. Although it seems incredible nowadays, the breeding grounds of at least two species remain to be discovered. 

Thalassoica antartica Antarctic Petrel
Also known as Antarctic Fulmar (!)

Daption capense Cape Petrel
D. c. capense
D. c. australe
Also known as Cape Pigeon, Cape Fulmar, Pintado, Pied Petrel, Spotted Petrel and Black-and-white Petrel

Pagodroma nivea Snow Petrel
P. n. nivea
P. n. confusa
Also known as Snowy Petrel

Pterodroma macroptera Great-winged Petrel
P. m. macroptera
P. m. gouldi
Also known as Grey-faced Petrel, Long-winged Petrel, Long-winged Fulmar

Pterodroma brevirostris Kerguelen Petrel
Also known as Little Black Petrel or Short-billed Petrel

Pterodroma aterrima Mascarene Petrel (CRITICAL)
Also known as Mascarene Black Petrel or Reunion Petrel

Pterodroma becki Beck's Petrel (CRITICAL)
Formerly considered as a race of Tahiti Petrel

Pterodroma rostrata Tahiti Petrel
P. r. rostrata
P. r. trouessarti

Pterodroma macgillivrayi Fiji Petrel (CRITICAL)
Also known as Macgillivray's Petrel

Pterodroma axillaris Chatham Islands Petrel (CRITICAL)

Pterodroma cervicalis White-necked Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as White-naped Petrel, Black-capped Petrel (confusing!), Sunday Island Petrel

Pterodroma nigripennis Black-winged Petrel

Pterodroma inexpectata Mottled Petrel
Sometimes refered to as Peale's Petrel or Scaled Petrel

Pterodroma hypoleuca Bonin Petrel
Also known as Stout-billed Petrel

Pterodroma leucoptera Gould's Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
P. l. leucoptera
P. l. caledonica
Also known as White-winged Petrel, Sooty-capped Petrel, White-throated Petrel

Pterodroma cookii Cook's Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Blue-footed Petrel

Pterodroma pycrofti Pycroft's Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Formerly grouped with Stejneger's Petrel

Pterodroma brevipes Collared Petrel
Formerly considered a subspecies of Gould's Petrel

Pterodroma defilippiana Defilippe's Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Mas a Tierra Petrel

Pterodroma longirostris Stejneger's Petrel (new candidate for consideration)

Pterodroma alba Phoenix Petrel

Pterodroma heraldica Herald Petrel

Pterodroma arminjoniana Trinidade Petrel
Formerly considered a subspecies of Herald Petrel

Pterodroma atrata Henderson Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Formerly a subspecies of Herald Petrel??

Pterodroma sandwichensis Hawaiian Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Formerly lumped with P. phaeopygia as Dark-rumped Petrel
Also known as Uau

Pterodroma phaeopygia Galapagos Petrel (CRITICAL)
Formerly lumped with P. sandwichensis as Dark-rumped Petrel

Pterodroma neglecta Kermadec Petrel
P. n. neglecta
P. n. juana
Also known as Variable Petrel

Pterodroma externa Juan Fernandez Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Formerly considered subspecies of White-necked Petrel
Also known as Pacific Petrel

Pterodroma baraui Barau's Petrel (CRITICAL)

Pterodroma ultima Murphy's Petrel

Pterodroma solandri Providence Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Solander's Petrel, Brown-headed Petrel or Bird of Providence, Big Hill mutton bird

Pterodroma phillipii Mount Pit Petrel (PRESUMED EXTINCT)
Also known as Norfolk Island Petrel

Pterodroma magentae Magenta Petrel (CRITICAL)
Also known as Taiko or Chatham Island Taiko

Pterodroma lessonii White-headed Petrel
Also known as White-headed Fulmar

Pterodroma madeira Zino's Petrel (CRITICAL)
Also known as Madeira Petrel or Freira

Pterodroma feae Fea's Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Gon-gon or Cape Verde Petrel

Pterodroma mollis Soft-plumaged Petrel
P. m. mollis
P. m. fusca
Also known as Soft-plumaged Fulmar

Pterodroma incerta Atlantic Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Schlegel's Petrel or Hooded Petrel

Pterodroma cahow Bermuda Petrel (ENDANGERED)
Also known as Cahow

Pterodroma hasitata Black-capped Petrel (ENDANGERED)
Also known as Diablotin or Capped Petrel

Pterodroma caribbaea Jamaica Petrel (CRITICAL/EXTINCT?)
Sometimes considered race of Black-capped Petrel


'In the whole order of Procellariiformes there is probably no other aggregation of closely related species which has been so confused in the literature as these petrels. Not only are there several synonyms for most of the specific names now believed to have prior claims over others but, moreover, these names, through misinterpretation or misidentification, have become transposed from one species to the next in a manner which is bewildering if not altogether hopeless. I believe it is fair to say that about half of the older Museum specimens of these birds which I have examined have at one time or another been incorrectly identified, as indicated by the name or names written upon the labels.' -- Robert Cushman Murphy (1936) Oceanic Birds of South America.

The prions currently comprise six rather similar looking species of Pachyptila prion together with the Blue Petrel. All are restricted to the southern hemisphere. Identification at sea can be difficult and benefits from comparative experience. All of the species are rather gregarious and can occur in mixed flocks. The name prion is a direct transcription of the Greek for 'saw', in reference to the lamellae on the inside of the bill. Food is mainly collected by hydroplaning and surface-filtering. Water is drawn into the mouth, collecting in a distensible interramal pouch, and then expelled by an upward movement of the broad tongue. Small organisims are thus trapped by the palatal lamellae and swallowed. This is very reminiscent of the feeding mode used by balleen whales. May also take individual organisms (e.g. euphausiid shrimps) by picking at surface. Catch small squid at night sometimes by diving.

Flock of Antarctic Prions (Pachyptila desolata) rising from the water near South Georgia in late January 1999. This species is extremely similar to both Medium-billed (or Salvin's) and Broad-billed Prions and separation at sea is difficult. Readily separated from the remaining prion species by much darker head, extensive dark smudge where the collar meets the breast and broad dark tip to tail. Photo copyright of Ron Saldino ©, 1999.

Halobaena caerulea Blue Petrel

Pachyptila vittata Broad-billed Prion
Also known as Blue Prion, Broad-billed Dove Petrel, Long-blled Prion, Common Prion, Icebird, Whalebird

Pachyptila salvini Medium-billed Prion
P. s. salvini
P. s. macqillivrayi
Sometimes grouped with Broad-billed Prion

Pachyptila desolata Antarctic Prion
P. d. desolata
P. d. alter
P. d. banksi
Also known as Dove Prion, Bank's Dove Petrel, Snowbird, Blue Dove-Petrel etc.

Pachyptila belcheri Slender-billed Prion
Also known as Narrow-billed Prion

Pachyptila turtur Fairy Prion

Pachyptila crassirostris Fulmar Prion
P. c. crassirostris
P. c. eatoni

'Bulweria' Petrels

The relationship of the Bulweria to other petrels is not well understood. They have traditionally been included within the gadfly-petrels (Pterodroma), but skeletal information suggests closer affinities to Prions or the Procellaria (e.g. White-chinned Petrel). Each species within the group bears its own feather louse (Halipeurus). 

Bulweria bulwerii Bulwer's Petrel

Bulweria fallax Jouanin's Petrel

'Procellaria' Petrels

A difficult and poorly known group restricted to the southern hemisphere. Procella is the Latin for storm or gale.

Procellaria aequinoctialis White-chinned Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Also known as Shoemaker Petrel

Procellaria conspicillata Spectacled Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Traditionally grouped with White-chinned Petrel

Procellaria parkinsoni Black Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Parkinson's Petrel

Procellaria westlandica Westland Petrel (VULNERABLE)
Also known as Westland Black Petrel

Procellaria cinerea Grey Petrel (new candidate for consideration)
Also known as Pediunker

Helpful Identification Literature

Roberson, D., and S. F. Bailey (1991) Cookilaria petrels in the eastern Pacific Ocean: identification and distribution, part I. American Birds 45: p399-403.

Roberson, D., and S. F. Bailey (1991) Cookilaria petrels in the eastern Pacific Ocean: identification and distribution, part II. American Birds 45: p1067-1081.

Bailey, S. F., P. Pyle, and L. B. Spear (1992) Dark Pterodroma petrels in the North Pacific: identification, status, and North American occurrence. American Birds 43: p400-415.

Spear, L. B., S. N. G. Howell, and D. G. Ainley (1992) Notes on the at-sea identification of some Pacific gadfly petrels (genus: Pterodroma). Colonial Waterbirds 15: p220-218.

Howell, S. N. G., S. Webb, and L. B. Spear (1996) Identification at sea of Cook's, DeFilippi's, and Pycroft's petrels. Western Birds 27: p57-64.

Nunn, G. B. and Anderson, D. J. (1999) Phylogenetic relationships among Pacific Pterodroma petrels. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division 18 (1): 72.

Pyle, P., L. B. Spear, and D. G. Ainley (1993) Observations of Dark-rumped Petrels off Oregon and California. Western Birds 24: p110-112.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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