Tuesday 21 May
Atlantic petrel (Pterodroma incerta)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Atlantic petrel fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Atlantic petrel description
The Atlantic petrel is one of the largest gadfly petrels (Pterodroma species), recognised by its striking white breast and abdomen that contrast with the uniformly black-brown plumage of the rest of the body (4). Particularly sharp colour demarcation exists from the brown upper breast to the white lower breast and belly (2). Sexes are alike (3).
- Also known as
- hooded petrel, Schlegel's petrel.
- Pétrel de Schlegel. Top
- BirdLife International:
- Cuthbert, R. (2004) Breeding biology of the Atlantic Petrel, Pterodroma incerta, and a population estimate of this and other burrowing petrels on Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean. EMU, 104(3): 221 – 228.
- Active at night.
- Inhabiting the open oceans.
- IUCN Red List (December, 2008)
- BirdLife International (December, 2008)
- Klages, N.T.W. and Cooper, J. (1997) Diet of the Atlantic Petrel Pterodroma incerta during breeding at South Atlantic Gough Island. Marine Ornithology, 25: 13 - 16.
- Ocean Wanderers (December, 2008)
- Cuthbert, R. (2004) Breeding biology of the Atlantic Petrel, Pterodroma incerta, and a population estimate of this and other burrowing petrels on Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean. EMU, 104(3): 221 - 228.
- Zoological Museum Amsterdam (December, 2008)
- BirdLife International (December, 2008)
- UNEP-WCMC (December, 2008)
- 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.
Atlantic petrel biology
Atlantic petrels are winter breeders, returning to their colonies from February to March in order to mate (3). Single eggs are laid from June to July, with young hatching in August and September, and fledging in December and January (3) (5). The birds are exclusively nocturnal whilst on land (5). Chicks grow at a very slow rate, suggesting poor at-sea feeding conditions (5). The age of first breeding, breeding frequency and longevity are not yet known for this species (2).
Squid forms the bulk of the diet, although some crustaceans and fish will also be taken (2), and the Atlantic petrel possesses physical and behavioural adaptations geared towards catching such prey. The species’ towering flight style gives it a commanding field of view, useful in detecting widely dispersed prey (3). Furthermore, few other gadfly petrels in the region have such an elongated bill as this species, which is equipped with a strongly hooked tip, thought to be an adaptation to snatching live, slippery squid from the sea surface (3).Top
Atlantic petrel range
The Atlantic petrel is a seabird predominantly restricted to the South Atlantic, ranging from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa (2). Until recently, a breeding population existed on Tristan da Cunha, but this is now believed to be extinct. Today, Gough Island is the only location where this species still breeds, with an estimated population of around 1.8 million pairs (2).Top
Atlantic petrel habitat
This bird nests in colonies on islands, but is otherwise pelagic (2). Nesting occurs in burrows dug in peaty soils in fern-bush vegetation from 50 to 300 metres above sea level on Gough, and at higher elevations on Tristan (2).Top
Atlantic petrel status
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Atlantic petrel threats
Although still common, the Atlantic petrel qualifies as Endangered because it has a very small breeding range, with the vast majority of the population on just one island (2). Such a limited range places the bird at risk from chance events such as natural disasters or the introduction of mammalian predators (2) (6). On Gough, predation by the introduced house mouse (Mus musculus) is having a severe effect on the Atlantic petrel’s breeding success, with just two percent of the chicks reaching fledging in 2007 (2). The large population of native southern skua (Catharacta antarctica) are also known to feed on seabirds including the Atlantic petrel (2).
On Tristan Island, where the Atlantic petrel was once common, it was likely to have been driven into decline by hunting, as it was formerly one of the few sources of food for the islanders during winter (6). Although this exploitation has abated, predation by introduced rats appears to have driven the island’s population to extinction (2).Top
Atlantic petrel conservation
Gough Island is both a Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site, and while this provides good protection from human disturbance, it does not offer the Gough bunting any protection from the mouse predation that is driving it towards extinction (2). A study of the mice conducted by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and funded by the UK government's Overseas Territories Environment Programme has shown that their eradication from the island is feasible. Unfortunately, however, until adequate funding is acquired this will not occur (7). Gough Island is widely recognised as having one of the most diverse bird colonies in the world, including four endangered species, and every effort should therefore be made to protect it and the rich biodiversity it hosts (8).Top
Find out more
To learn more about the Atlantic petrel and its threats visit:
Authenticated (15/12/08) by Ross Wanless and Andrea Angel, Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology.
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:
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.