Antarctic petrel

The Antarctic Petrel is a large petrel with strikingly contrasting plumage colours. It is similar to the cape petrel, Daption capense, but without the speckled upperwing.

Antarctic petrels spend the Antarctic winter at sea near the pack ice edge, but sometimes range further north in winter, returning to the Antarctic continent to breed in the summer. They are often seen in flocks, sometimes comprising thousands of birds, on ice floes. In late winter, they are occasionally recorded from Australia and New Zealand. They are most common in the Ross and Weddell seas, and tourists are most likely to see them in early December travelling south along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctic petrels breed in the mountain ranges of the Antarctic continent or very southern islands. Antarctic petrels return to their nest in October to November and lay one elongated ovoid egg. They usually nest in clefts, crevices and on ledges on sloping rocky cliffs in snow-free areas. Incubation takes 40-48 days while the chicks typically fledge in a further 45 days. Breeding colonies range from a few nests to more than 200,000 pairs. Fledglings from the same colony may remain together in flocks.

The diet of Antarctic petrels consists of krill, fish and small squid.

Antarctic petrels are not endangered with several million pairs in existence.

Sub Species:

Other common names:  — 

Pagrodroma nivea confusa, Procellaria nivea

Description:  — 

Native bird

45cm, 650g, dark chocolate brown above, broad, white trailing edge to upperwing, white tail with brownish-black tip, underparts white, dark brown throat, underwing dark leading edge, bill dark bluish grey in adults and black in immature birds, feet grey.

Where to find:  — 

Common in the Ross Sea sector. In winter a few reach NZ mainland waters.

Illustration description: — 


Mathews, G.M., Birds of Australia, 1910-27

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Readers Digest Complete Book of NZ Birds, 1985

Page date & version: — 


Friday, 30 May 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.