Tuesday 21 May
Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Antarctic petrel fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Antarctic petrel description
One of the most southerly nesting birds the Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica) breeds in the mountainous regions of the Antarctic (2).
The Antarctic petrel has a faded brown head and mantle with white bars on wings with a thick brown leading edge. During the summer the black colouration fades to a dull yellowish-brown (3). The plumage of males and females is identical but males are slightly larger than females (4).
- Pétrel antarctique.
Antarctic petrel biology
The Antarctic petrel nests in dense colonies (6). One of the largest known is located inland at Svarthamaren in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica where up to 255,000 breeding pairs have been observed. There are 35 known breeding colonies, mostly in East Antarctica, but there are probably more to be discovered (7).
Although generally considered to be monogamous, female Antarctic petrels will sometimes mate with a neighbouring male. Due to the high proportion of females in some populations, not every female is able to breed each season. Occasionally a breeding female will be joined by an unsuccessful female providing the opportunity to improve its parenting skills (8).
The female Antarctic petrel lays one egg (9) in the last ten days of November (10) and the egg hatches in early January (6) (10). After hatching, the adults take turns to remain at the nest while the other forages for food (3).These foraging trips may cover large distances of up to 3000 kilometres (11). Chicks fledge in late February to early March (10).
Plunging into the water to grab its prey or seizing it from the surface of the water, the Antarctic petrel feeds on fish, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and occasionally squid (5). Inland colonies feed mostly on crustaceans, whereas birds living on pack ice feed mainly on fish (11). In some colonies, chicks may eat proportionally more fish than their parents, because fish provide slightly more energy and protein than krill and considerably more calcium, which is required for growth (12).
Adult Antarctic petrels generally have high survival rates (9). Although there are no available data concerning hatching or fledgling success in this species, it is known that south polar skuas (Stercorarius maccormicki) predate eggs and chicks, targeting nests that are less sheltered (13).Top
Antarctic petrel range
The Antarctic petrel occupies an extensive range and can be found along the Antarctic coastline and surrounding islands. It also nests up to 250 kilometres inland (5).Top
Antarctic petrel habitat
Antarctic petrel colonies are found on steep, exposed slopes, more than six metres above sea level, so that the petrels can take off (6). Nests are commonly found on rock or cliff faces (5). The Antarctic environment is harsh and few animals can survive here. Temperatures experienced by the Antarctic petrel are regularly below 0 degrees Celsius and can drop to minus 25 degrees Celsius (6).Top
Antarctic petrel status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Antarctic petrel threats
There is little information available regarding potential threats to the survival of this species. In 1999, it was estimated that there were between 10 and 20 million Antarctic petrels (10), and although there have been no more recent estimates it does not appear that the species’ numbers have changed significantly (7).
Like other marine birds, it is possible that the Antarctic Petrel may be affected by longline fishing practices in the Southern Ocean (14).
Climate change also poses a potential threat to the habitat of the Antarctic petrel and may affect the behaviour of this bird and other animals inhabiting the Antarctic (15). It has been noted that birds breeding in East Antarctica, including the Antarctic petrel, tended to arrive and breed later in 2004 than in 1950, a trend that has been linked to climate change (16). Warming of the Southern Ocean has also been linked to a reduction in krill, a prey item of the Antarctic petrel (17).Top
Antarctic petrel conservation
Currently there are no known measures in place for the conservation of the Antarctic petrel owing to its large population numbers and extensive range (1). However, members of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are monitoring the effects of fishing in the Southern Ocean and are working towards reducing seabird bycatch (18).Top
Find out more
More information on the Antarctic petrel and other bird species:
BirdLife International - Antarctic petrel:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
- Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
- Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Pack ice
- Sea ice that floats on the surface of the water. Often formed from large pieces of ice that consolidate into a single ice mass, pack ice typically moves with currents, tides and wind.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
- Weathers, W.W., Gerhart, K.L. and Hodum, P.J. (2000) Thermoregulation in Antarctic fulmarine petrels. Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systematic, and Environmental Physiology, 170(8): 561-572.
- Warham, J. (1990) The Petrels: Their Ecology and Breeding Systems. Academic Press Limited, London.
- Lorentsen, S-H. & Røv, N. (1994) Sex determination of Antarctic Petrels Thalassoica antarctica by discriminant analysis of morphometric characters. Polar Biology, 14(2): 143-145.
BirdLife International (March, 2011)
- Hodum, P.J. (2002) Breeding biology of high-latitude Antarctic fulmarine petrels (Procellariidae). Journal of Zoology, 256: 139-149.
- Brooke, M. (2004) Albatrosses and Petrels across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Lorentsen, S-H., Amundsen, T., Anthonisen, A., Lifjeld, J. T. (2000) Molecular evidence for extrapair paternity and female-female pairs in Antarctic petrels. Auk, 117(4): 1042-1047.
- Hodum, P.J. and Weathers, W.W. (2003) Energetics of nestling growth and parental effort in Antarctic fulmarine petrels. Journal of Experimental Biology, 206: 2125-2133.
- van Franeker, J.A., Gavrilo, M., Mehlum, F., Veit, R.R. and Woehler, E.J. (1999) Distribution and abundance of the Antarctic petrel. Waterbirds, 22(1): 14-28.
- Lorentsen, S-H., Klages, N. & Røv, N. (1998) Diet and prey consumption of Antarctic petrels Thalassoica antarctica at Svarthamaren, Dronning Maud Land, and at sea outside the colony. Polar Biology, 19(6): 414-420.
- Hodum, P.J. and Hobson, K.A. (2000) Trophic relationships among Antarctic fulmarine petrels: insights into dietary overlap and chick provisioning strategies inferred from stable-isotope (d15N and d13C) analyses. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 198: 273-281.
- Varpe, Ø. and Tveraa, T. (2005) Chick survival in relation to nest site: is the Antarctic petrel hiding from its predator? Polar Biology, 28(5): 388-394.
Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (November, 2011)
- Trathan, P.N. and Agnew, D. (2010) Climate change and the Antarctic marine ecosystem: an essay on management implications. Antarctic Science, 22(4): 387-398.
- Barbraud, C. and Weimerskirch, H. (2006) Antarctic birds breed later in response to climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(16): 6248-6251.
- Atkinson, A., Siegel, V., Pakhomov, E. and Rothery, P. (2004) Long-term decline in krill stock and increase in salps within the Southern Ocean. Nature, 432:100–103.
- Waugh, S.M., Baker, G.B., Gales, R. and Croxall, J.P. (2008) CCAMLR process of risk assessment to minimise the effects of longline fishing mortality on seabirds. Marine Policy, 32(5): 442-454.
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.