Wilson's Storm-PetrelOceanites oceanicus

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



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.


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


guttural calls #2
guttural calls #1


Open ocean.


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.


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).


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

Similar Species


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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