The silver-grey petrel, as Oliver has it, was met with in 1769 off the East Cape during Cook's first voyage. It was, however, not recognised as a species distinct from the common fulmar of the Arctic until Stephens in 1826 described it from the Cape Seas. The southern fulmar is very similar in appearance to the northern fulmar, although it is slightly smaller than its northern hemisphere counterpart.
The Antarctic fulmar breeds in large colonies on the islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. During the winter months, they move north away from the pack ice, reaching as far north as 10° S, following cold currents along the western coasts of southern continents. They arrive at their southern colonies and establish sites on open scree or rock ledges in October. Their nests are made of stone chips built into a rough circular shape. Eggs are laid in early December and hatch in mid-January. Only one egg is laid. Chicks fledge in early March at around 52 days old. Skuas may take some abandoned eggs and chicks, but extreme weather conditions are much more significant causes of egg and chick mortality. The fulmar, like giant petrels, is capable of spitting a foul-smelling, yellowish oil at nest intruders. The oil comes from the bird's stomach and can be aimed with great accuracy at targets more than a metre away.
Antarctic Fulmars are gregarious birds, often travelling, feeding and resting in large flocks or rafts. Food is caught by surface-seizing and occasionally by shallow dives. Their diet consists of krill, crustaceans, and fish. They will also scavenge for carrion. They are believed to feed nocturnally, rarely following ships, as many other Antarctic bird species do.
— Greytown, 2008
Other common names: —
Southern fulmar, silver-grey fulmar, silver-grey petrel, Slender-billed Fulmar, procella glacialoides.
50 cm, 800g, a large, very pale, gull-like petrel, upper surface pale blue-grey, with wings only slightly darker, white inner webs of the outer primaries, together with the nearly all white inner primaries, white rectangular patch on the upperwing, characteristic of this species, head, tail and all underparts pure white, bill fleshy pink with black tip and blue nasal tubes, feet mainly pale flesh coloured.
Where to find: —
In NZ region, nests on Balleny Islands. Ranges widely in the southern oceans, visiting NZ waters in winter and spring. May be seen off Kaikoura.
Illustration description: —
Godman, Frederick du Cane, Monograph of the Petrels, 1907–1910.
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Readers Digest Complete Book of NZ Birds, 1985.
Olliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Page date & version: —
Monday, 19 May, 2014; ver2009v1