Wilson's Storm-PetrelOceanites oceanicus

adult
Harold Stiver/VIREO
adult
Bill Schmoker/VIREO
adult
Brian Sullivan/VIREO
adult
Glen Tepke/VIREO
Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Family

Description

7" (18 cm). A small seabird that darts and skims over the waves like a swallow. Black with white rump, square-tipped or rounded tail. Has longer legs than other western storm-petrels, with yellow webs between toes. Leach's Storm-Petrel is similar, but has notched tail and flies like a nighthawk.

Voice

A soft peeping, heard at close range when birds are feeding.

Listen

guttural calls #2
guttural calls #1

Habitat

Open ocean.

Range

Breeds on islands in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic seas; in nonbreeding season ranges northward over Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans; in eastern Pacific very rarely north to Monterey Bay.

Discussion

Perhaps the most abundant bird in the world, this species nests in countless millions on islands in the Southern Hemisphere and visits the Northern Hemisphere during our summer months, where it is much rarer in the North Pacific than it is in the North Atlantic. Wilson's Storm-Petrel often hovers at the surface of the water, its wings held over its back and its feet gently touching the water. Although normally a bird of the open ocean, it sometimes enters bays and estuaries, and often follows ships. This bird is named after American ornithologist Alexander Wilson (1766-1813).

Nesting

1 white egg placed in a crevice among rocks or in a burrow in soft earth.

Similar Species

adult

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

7.5 - 9" (19-23 cm). W. 16 1/2-18" (42-45 cm). Intermediate in many respects between Wilson's and Leach's storm-petrels.

adult

Ashy Storm-Petrel

7 1/2" (19 cm). An all-black storm-petrel with shallowly forked tail and somewhat rounded wings. Ashy color of head and neck and light mottling on undersides of wings may be visible at close range.

adult

Leach's Storm-Petrel

8-9" (20-23 cm). A black storm-petrel with a shallowly forked tail and a white rump with a dark center; south of Central California, birds lack the white rump.

adult

Black Storm-Petrel

9" (23 cm). A large all-dark storm-petrel with long pointed wings and a forked tail. Flight smoother and more languid, with deeper and more graceful wingbeats, than that of other storm-petrels.

adult

Least Storm-Petrel

6" (15 cm). The smallest storm-petrel on the West Coast. An all-dark bird with short wings; tail short and wedge-shaped rather than forked. Often appears tailless at a distance.

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