Peruvian diving-petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii)

Also known as: Pelecanoides garnoti
GenusPelecanoides (1)
SizeLength: 22 cm (2)

The Peruvian diving-petrel is classified as Endangered (EN B2ab (iii,v)) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (3).

Somewhat resembling a penguin, the Peruvian diving-petrel is a small and tubby black and white bird that flies low and fast with rapid wing beats. It is black above with a dull white underside. The face and neck are brownish and the sides of the breast are dark greyish-blue (2). The short, paddle-like wings are used for underwater propulsion (4).

The Peruvian diving-petrel was previously numerous, occurring on islands off the coast of South America from Isla Lobos de Tierra, Peru to Isla Chiloé, Chile, but is now found on just a small number of islands in this range (2).

This petrel is a coastal species, spending the non-breeding season in the rich waters of the Humboldt Current, off the coast of Ecuador. In the breeding season, the Peruvian diving-petrel burrows in sandy soils and digs into thick guano to build a nest (2).

Known in the Falkland Islands as ‘firebirds’ for their habit of flying into flames, the Peruvian diving-petrel is easily attracted to light. Agile both in and out of the water, this species flies just above the water surface, travelling straight through waves with very fast wing beats. It is usually seen singly or in small groups when out at sea, and tends not to travel too far from the coast (3). On land however, the Peruvian diving-petrel nests in colonies, leaving them before sunrise to feed, and returning after dark (5). They feed opportunistically on small fish and crustaceans (2), diving to around 32 metres underwater, and up to an incredible 83 metres (6).

Breeding has been recorded in this species throughout the year, with least activity in November. It is thought to have two breeding periods each year, with some pairs breeding in both periods (2). A single egg is incubated for 9 – 10 weeks and the hatchling is fed by both parents until it fledges after 60 to 70 days (5).

Guano, used by man as fertiliser due to its high nutrient content, has been historically extracted from the island homes of the Peruvian diving-petrel. This large-scale extraction is thought to be the cause of the large declines suffered by this bird, but guano harvests continue every five to seven years regardless. Hunting also continues and many birds are killed by the fishing industry as by-catch. Introduced rats, cats and foxes have exterminated the Peruvian diving-petrel on many islands, and continue to pose a threat to the remaining populations (2).

All breeding colonies of the Peruvian diving-petrel are found in reserves, but only one of these benefits from trained guards. Searches have taken place to find further colonies in Chile, but to no avail. As the threats to this species continue, with no sign of abatement, it is crucial to address them. Predator control and halting guano extraction are particularly important if this species is to survive (2).

For further information on this species, see:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2005)
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2005)
  3. CMS (April, 2005)
  4. Ocean Wanderers (April, 2005)
  5. Aves Marinas (April, 2005)
  6. Jahncke, J. and Zavalaga, C.B. (1997) Maximum dive depths of the Peruvian diving-petrel. Condor, 99(4): 1002 - 1004.