Annotated List of the Seabirds of the World - Storm-petrels and Diving Petrels

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


Small delicate seabirds distinguished by having a united nostril with a single openning and relatively short round-tipped wings. The distinctive wing shape arises from the large size of the 'hand' and the fact that P8 and P9 are longer than P7 or P10. Storm-petrels are so unlike other tubenoses that Linnaeus first classified the European Storm-Petrel as a passinerine! All species are highly pelagic and poorly known at sea. The identification of several species is fairly difficult at sea and this hampers a full understanding of their marine distribution. On land, crouch on bent legs and move with shuffling gait. In the air, the flight is erratic with swoops, bounces, flutters and skimming motions. Most feed on planktonic organisms (crustaceans, molluscs, small fish etc.) and a few species will follow ships, feeding in the wake for disturbed organisms or scraps. Depending on species, may be solitary or gregarious at sea. Churring calls are a notable feature of breeding colonies.

Many species have a white rump, which varies between closely related species and is thought to serve an important role in inter-specific recognition. Most species feed by picking at the water surface. Storm-petrels are generally divided into two groups: the subfamily Oceanitinae long-legged birds of the southern hemisphere, and Hydrobatinae which are shorter legged an most numerous in the northern hemisphere. 

The Oceanitinae are characterized by short wings with only 10 secondaries, more or less square tails, elongated skulls and tarsi longer than the toes.

The Hydrobatinae have longer wings than the Oceanitinae , wedge-shaped or forked tails, short skulls and bills, tarsi about equal length to the toes. Tend to walk rather than hop along the surface of the water. 

Oceanites oceanicus Wilson's Storm-Petrel
O. o. oceanicus

O. o. exasperatus

Also known as Flat-clawed Storm-petrel, Yellow-webbed Storm-petrel, Mother Carey's Chicken

Oceanites gracilis White-vented Storm-Petrel (DATA DEFICIENT)
O. g. gracilis (Elliot's Storm-petrel)

O. g. galapagoensis

Also known as Graceful Storm-petrel

Garrodia nereis Grey-backed Storm-Petrel

Pelagodroma marina White-faced Storm-Petrel
P. m. hypoleuca

P. m. eadesi

P. m. marina

P. m. dulciae

P. m. maoriana

P. m. albiclunis

Also known as Frigate Petrel, White-breasted Storm-Petrel, Storm-Petrel or Mother Carey's Chicken(!)

Fregetta tropica Black-bellied Storm-Petrel
F. t. tropica

F. t. melanoleuca

Also known as Gould's Storm-petrel or Striped Storm-petrel

Fregetta grallaria White-bellied Storm-Petrel
F. g. grallaria

F. g. leucogaster

F. g. segethi

F. g. titan

Also known as Vieillot's Storm-petrel or Broad-tailed Storm-Petrel

Nesofregetta fuliginosa Polynesian Storm-Petrel

Also known as White-throated Storm-petrel or Samoan Storm-petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus European Storm-petrel

Also known as British Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma microsoma Least Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma tethys Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel (NEAR THREATENED) O. t. tethys
O. t. kelsalli

Also known as Galapagos Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma castro Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Monotypic although there may be at least one undescribed subspecies

Also known as Madeiran Storm-petrel or Harcourt's Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma leucorhoa Leach's Storm-petrel
O. l. leucorhoa

O. l. chapmani

O. l. socorrensis (Socorro Storm-petrel)

O. l. cheimonestes

Also known as Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Leach's Fork-tailed Storm-petrel or Leach's Petrel.

Subspecific taxonomy complex and confused.

Oceanodroma monorhis Swinhoe's Storm-petrel (NEAR THREATENED)

Oceanodroma macrodactyla Guadalupe Storm-petrel (CRITICAL!? - ALMOST CERTAINLY EXTINCT)

Oceanodroma tristrami Tristram's Storm-petrel (NEAR THREATENED)

Also known as Sooty Storm-petrel(!) or Stejneger's Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma markhami Markham's Storm-petrel (DATA DEFICIENT)

Oceanodroma matsudairae Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel (DATA DEFICIENT)

Also known as Sooty Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma melania Black Storm-Petrel

Oceanodroma homochroa Ashy Storm-Petrel (NEAR THREATENED)

Oceanodroma hornbyi Ringed Storm-Petrel (DATA DEFICIENT)

Also known as Hornby's Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma furcata Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel
O. f. furcata

O. f. plumbea

Also known as Grey Storm-petrel

Diving Petrels

Family comprises four species found only in the cold or cool seas of the southern hemisphere (Antarctic Convergence and Subantarctic zone). The limited fossil record and distribution of extant species suggests they may have evolved within or near their present range. There are striking structural and behavioural similarities to the small alcids of the northern hemisphere (e.g. Dovekie or Little Auk) and may represent a great example of convergent evolution. Besides several morphological simiarities both Diving Petrels and small alcids produce white eggs presumably for better localization in the dark.

Diving Petrels are short, compact birds with very dense plumage. The tail and wings are both short, the latter being rather paddel-like presumably an adaptation to propulsion under water. Primarily coastal rather than pelagic. Seen at sea either singly or in small groups. At rest, float high on the water. In flight, whirr along in straight lines close to the water, traveling straight through waves without hesitation. Wing beats faster than Little Shearwater. When disturbed either dive or make a short flight then dive. Strokes underwater resemble those of alcids, bending the wings at the carpal joint rather than flapping like penguins. Sadly, easily attracted to lights and will travel down the beam of a torch or flashlight sometimes fatally dashing themselves on the ground. Also tend to fly into flames! Hence the Falkland Island name - 'Firebirds'.... 

The Diving Petrels display a remarkable lack of morphological diversity and three of the four recognized species are monotypic. Murphy considered exsul (the Kerguelen or Subantarctic Diving-petrel) a full-species but more recent biochemical studies include exsul within urinatrix. Sympatric nesting of P. georgicus and P. urinatrix without interbreeding argues strongly for seperate-species status. Not thought to travel far from nesting grounds although adults may vanish for several weeks following the fledging of the young, presumably to undergo a period of molt. 


Ryan, P. G., & D. C. Nel. (1999) Foraging behaviour of diving petrels Pelecanoides. Emu 99: 72-74.

Pelecanoides garnotii Peruvian Diving-petrel (ENDANGERED)

Pelecanoides magellani Magellanic Diving-petrel

Pelecanoides georgicus South Georgia Diving-petrel


Also known as Georgian Diving-petrel

Pelecanoides urinatrix Common Diving-petrel
P. u. urinatrix

P. u. chathamensis

P. u. exsul (Kerguelen or Subantarctic Diving-petrel)

P. u. dacunhae

P. u. berard (Falkland or Berard's Diving-petrel)

P. u. coppingeri

Also known as Tristan Diving-petrel, Smaller Diving Petrel or Diving Petrel

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson

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