European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)

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European storm-petrel on rocky ground
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European storm-petrel fact file

European storm-petrel description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderProcellariiformes
FamilyHydrobatidae
GenusHydrobates (1)

A diminutive seabird with a streamlined body and large, elongated wings, the European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) is superbly adapted for life out at sea. As a member of the order Procellariiformes, or tubenoses, it has a nasal salt gland connected to a fused nostril, which is used to expel excess salt after drinking seawater, and it has a small, hooked, black beak used to grasp its slippery prey (3). It has a steep forehead and short legs with webbed feed that do not project past the square-ish tail when flying (2). Apart from a white rump and a white bar on the under-wing, the European storm-petrel is mainly glossy black (2).

Also known as
British storm petrel, European storm petrel, storm petrel.
French
Pétrel tempête.
Size
Length: 14 - 18 cm (2)
Wing span: 36 - 39 cm (2)
Weight
23 - 29 g (2)
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European storm-petrel biology

The European storm-petrel feeds mainly on small fish, squid and crustaceans, but also eats jellyfish (2) (4) (5) (6). It hunts mainly on the wing, dipping its bill in the water whilst pattering its feet along the surface to scoop up submerged prey (7). It occasionally follows in the wake of ships to pick up discards (2) (5) (6).

A truly monogamous species, pairs of European storm petrels stay together for life once they have bonded. After mating, a single large egg is laid in a rock crevice or burrow in a colony, from May or June. The European storm petrel only emerges from its concealed nest during the darkest hours of night, to reduce predation by gulls and skuas and to keep the location of the burrow hidden (3). The adult birds share the incubation duties and, after approximately 41 days, the chick hatches as a silvery-grey ball of fluffy feathers. Should the chick survive fledging, it has a long life expectancy of over 20 years, reaching sexual maturity after four or five years (2). Due to the egg weighing up to 25 percent of the female’s weight, and the lengthy incubation and fledging period, raising young is a costly investment for the breeding pair (3) (4).

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European storm-petrel range

In the summer, the European storm-petrel is found across the north-eastern Atlantic, ranging from Iceland and Norway, south to Portugal. Before winter, it migrates south to the east coast of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, occasionally as far south as South Africa (2). The European storm-petrel has one of the most restricted ranges of any storm-petrel species (4).

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European storm-petrel habitat

The European storm-petrel spends most of its life over open water far out at sea, returning to land only to breed. During the breeding season, it nests on rocky offshore islands lacking mammalian predators and visits both open water and coastal waters to hunt (1) (2) (5).

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European storm-petrel status

The European storm-petrel is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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European storm-petrel threats

Although the European storm-petrel has a restricted range and a slightly declining population, it is not thought to currently be at risk of extinction. The main threat to this species is the accidental introduction of invasive predators, such as rats and feral cats, to nesting islands in southern Europe and the Mediterranean. The European storm-petrel is particularly vulnerable to these predators as it typically nests on predator free islands, meaning its ground nests are highly vulnerable to predation.

In some parts of its range, the European storm petrel is also threatened by predation from increasing numbers of skuas and large gulls. In addition, the European storm-petrel is at slight risk of eating contaminated food items and indigestible matter, such as plastic bags or fishing lines (1) (5).

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European storm-petrel conservation

There are no known conservation plans targeting the European storm-petrel.

ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra
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Find out more

More information on the European storm-petrel and other bird species:

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Authentication

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:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Crustaceans
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton 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 and barnacles.
Feral
Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
Gland
An organ that makes and secretes substances used by the body.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J.  (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  4. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York, USA.
  5. BirdLife International (September, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SitHTMDetails.asp&sid=2594&m=0
  6. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - European storm-petrel (September, 2010)
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/s/stormpetrel/index.aspx
  7. Sinclair, I. and Hockey, P. (2005) The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
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Image credit

European storm-petrel on rocky ground  
European storm-petrel on rocky ground

© Jose Luis Gomez de Francisco / naturepl.com

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