Tuesday 21 May
Providence petrel (Pterodroma solandri)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Providence petrel fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Providence petrel description
The providence petrel is a robust seabird confined to two small islands off the east coast of Australia (2) (3). Its plumage is almost uniformly dark grey-brown except for the face and chin, which are mottled white (2), and cream triangular patches visible in flight under the wing (3). It has a stout black bill below dark brown eyes. Males tend to be larger than females and have a more prominent ridge (culmen) running along the upper part of the bill (2). These petrels are silent at sea but over breeding colonies produce a boisterous screech which, remarkably, when imitated by humans can lure the birds to the ground (4).
- Length: 40 cm (2)
Providence petrel biology
Earth burrows or rock crevices underneath the forest canopy are the favoured nesting sites of the providence petrel (2). Breeding takes place over winter, at the same time each year, with the female laying just a single egg (7). Following an incubation period of approximately 55 days, shared attentively by both parents, chicks hatch in early to mid-July (8). Once hatched, the parent birds spend most of their time foraging away from the nest, returning only for short periods at night to feed the chick (3). By mid-November most of the chicks will have fledged (9) (10).
With the ability to dive to depths of up to five metres (8), the providence petrel feeds primarily on fish and squid but will also take crustaceans and, on occasion, scavenge for offal cast from fishing boats (2) (8).Top
Providence petrel range
Breeding populations of the providence petrel are only found on Lord Howe Island, and Philip Island of the Norfolk Island group off the east coast of Australia (2). Non-breeding birds, however, are found all across the western Tasman Sea and the entire north pacific, even recorded as far as Japan (2) (5).Top
Providence petrel habitat
Nests are made on forested slopes and mountain summits from sea level up to 900 metres, with adult birds foraging widely at sea, preferring warm waters or the convergence zones between warm and cold currents (2) (6).Top
Providence petrel status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Providence petrel threats
In 1788, when the first Europeans arrived on Norfolk Island to establish a new penal colony for transported convicts, the population of providence petrel was probably in excess of one million pairs. However, uncontrolled hunting by human settlers and predation by introduced animals swiftly decimated the petrel population. By 1825, the seabird had been extirpated from Norfolk Island, and was not seen for another 150 years, when in 1985 a small population of 20 birds was discovered breeding on Philip Island (2) (11). In contrast, the breeding population on Lord Howe Island was able to withstand the potentially devastating introduction of a range of animals including pigs, cats, goats, rats and owls. Presently, the population on Lord Howe Island is stable with estimates in 2002 of over 32,000 breeding pairs, but with only a small number recorded on Philip Island, the species remains vulnerable to both catastrophic events and human impacts (2). Fortunately, the current human threat to providence petrels on Lord Howe Island is considered negligible compared with mortality caused by natural flooding of burrows and minor predation by the endemic Lord Howe woodhen (2) (9) (12).Top
Providence petrel conservation
In acknowledgement of its unique biodiversity and natural beauty, Lord Howe Island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982, and consequently is highly protected and the focus of substantial conservation effort (2) (13). This includes a programme which is currently being planned for the eradication of black rats and house mice from the island (14). Strict quarantine initiatives are also in place on both Lord Howe Island and Philip Island to minimise the risk of introducing invasive pests that could threaten native wildlife (6) (12). In the long-term, and particularly given the threat climate change holds for a species with such a limited range, there is considerable value in assisting in the expansion of a significant breeding population on the Norfolk Island group. Existing proposals include the eradication of mammalian predators from all, or part, of Norfolk Island, and translocation of providence petrel chicks to protected areas (2) (6).Top
Find out more
For further information on Lord Howe Island see:
- UNESCO World Heritage – Lord Howe Island:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
Authenticated (14/08/09) by Dr David Priddel, Principal Research Scientist, Biodiversity Conservation Science Section, Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW).
- Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the 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, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
- The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
- The movement of a species, by people, from one area to another.
- IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
- BirdLife International (September, 2008)
- Threatened Species Unit. (1999) Threatened Species information: Providence petrel – Pterodroma solandri. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville. Available at:
- Tennyson, A.J.D. and Taylor, G.A. (1990) Behaviour of Pterodroma petrels in response to “war-whoops”. Notornis, 37: 121 - 128.
- Kamiya, K. and Kirihara, K. (2005) A providence petrel (Pterodroma solandri) recorded on the Yumigahama coast in Yonago city, western Japan. Journal of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, 37: 72 - 74.
- Garnett, S.T. and Crowley, G.M. (2000) The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra. Available at:
- Bester, A., Klomp, N., Priddel, D. and Carlile, N. (2002) Chick-provisioning behaviour of the providence Petrel, Pterodroma solandri. Emu, 102: 297 - 303.
- Bester, A. (2003) The breeding, foraging ecology and conservation of the Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri on Lord Howe Island, Australia. PhD Thesis. Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia.
- Bester, A.J., Priddel, D., Klomp, N.I., Carlile, N. and O’Neill, L.E. (2007) Reproductive success of the providence petrel Pterodroma solandri on Lord Howe Island, Australia. Marine Ornithology, 35: 21 - 28.
- Binder, D. (2009) Growth, emergence and provisioning of providence petrel chicks: implications for translocation. BASc (hons) Thesis. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
- Medway, D.G. (2002) History and causes of the extirpation of the providence petrel (Pterodroma solandri) on Norfolk Island. Notornis, 49: 246 - 258.
- Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW). (2007) Lord Howe Island Biodiversity Management Plan. Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), Sydney.
- World Heritage Centre, UNESCO (September, 2008)
- Priddel, D. (2009) Pers. comm.
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.