The word 'petrel' is a reference to Saint Peter, who was said once to have walked on water, just as the petrels seem to walk or run on the water before they take off. They are considered to be the only species of birds in the world under the genus Thalassoica. These seabirds have large brown and white wings with white underparts below their heads and tails. Their nest is found mainly on the continent of Antarctica, where they breed and rest together in flocks (big colonies) on pack ice. They have often been sighted in far-off continent islands, such as New Zealand and Australia as well.
The Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica) is a species of bird found largely in Antarctica, New Zealand, and the coastal islands of Australia. Due to their large population, they are deemed of Least Concern for their conservation status. They live in big colonies and nest together near the sea. They have been often sighted resting in their colonies on pack ice, feeding on krill, fish, crustaceans, squids as part of their diet.
The Antarctic petrels belong to the class of Aves (birds). They generally live near the South Antarctic coasts during summer and migrate north in winter.
According to studies, it is estimated that the population distribution of these birds is around 10-20 million, which is considered plentiful, earning them the conservation status of Least Concern as per the IUCN.
The Atlantic petrel can be found on the coastal islands of the Antarctic ocean, and they are considered to be the most southerly nesting bird. During winters (their breeding season), these birds can sometimes be seen as far as Australia and New Zealand!
Antarctic petrels can typically be found near icebergs, ice floes, and pack ice floating in the Antarctic Ocean. They are often seen in flocks resting on the icebergs and roost with each other in late winter, and they are sometimes spotted around lands as far as Australia and New Zealand. They are said to be gregarious seabirds. Most Antarctic birds tend to fly from south to the north during winter as the southern part of the islands are incredibly cold during the winters and then are seen flying back south during summer.
Antarctic petrels are very social birds; they live and nest in colonies and can be sighted resting in flocks on icebergs during the off-breeding season.
The Antarctic petrel can live for about 15-20 years which is considered a relatively long life span for a bird species!
The movement of Antarctic petrels is generally dependant on their reproductive cycles. Breeding and nest-building take place on the coasts of these islands, and they act as the central place for foragers during the breeding period. Since the population of the female bird is more than that of the male bird, some of the females are unable to mate every season. Their breeding starts in winter; they lay their eggs towards the end of November, and then the females incubate their eggs for two months. After their eggs hatch, the parents feed the chicks, and the chicks flee the nest after around three to four months. During this time, petrel parents must be aware of the south polar skua (Stercorarius maccormicki) as these birds are natural predators to their eggs and young ones.
The Antarctic petrels have a huge population distribution of around 10-20 million, and thus the IUCN has listed their conservative as Least Concern.
The Antarctic petrels have a brown head, sides, throat, and back, and the underside of their belly and wings are white. Their bill is black in color, with a nasal passage attached to their upper bill known as 'naricorns'. Their bill is unique; it consists of seven to nine horny plates and in the shape of a hook. Petrels have well-developed elongated nostrils, which indicate the fact a good sense of smell. They have yellow feet and their tails and wings have secondaries which are white with a brown tip.
Antarctic petrels would not be considered classically cute but they are indeed mighty creatures!
Antarctic petrels have been known to roost at each other, particularly when they are perched on pack ice searching for krill.
Antarctic petrels are medium-sized birds. It is estimated that the average length of an Antarctic petrel is 17 in (43 cm) with a wingspan range of about 39-43 in (99-109 cm).
An Antarctic petrel can fly at the rate of 15-20 mph (24-40 kph) which is pretty fast!
The weight of an Antarctic petrel ranges from 14.8-25.4 oz (420-720 g). They are a very lightweight bird species.
Antarctic petrels are distinguished as male and female Antarctic Petrels only. They don't have any sex-specific names as such.
The baby is called a juvenile or a chick. After the chicks hatch, both parents take turns bringing food to the nest.
Antarctic petrels have a diet that resembles that of other petrel species. There has been a variety of research and observation of their diet, which indicates that most of their diet is generally squid, but they also feed on fish, insects, and their favorite, krill. Most of their feeding occurs during swimming and diving. As they live in flocks, they are often seen diving or resting together and feeding on the ocean wildlife.
Antarctic petrels might be dangerous as they rely on a defense mechanism that involves spraying, from their mouths, a stomach oil made up of wax esters and triglycerides when they feel threatened or facing a predator.
As they are wild birds, which require a certain temperature and environment to live in, it would be detrimental to the well-being of the bird if it is kept as a pet, especially caged up indoors. While it would be possible, it would be harmful to its overall development.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
Antarctic petrels have a proventriculus that stores a stomach oil made of esters and triglycerides, which are also produced in the stomach. These are foul-smelling liquids which they use to spray and scare their predators away. They also use this stomach oil to feed their chicks and themselves when flying long distances as it is a food source rich in energy. They also have glands above their nasal passage, just like other marine birds, which excrete a saline solution that helps them with getting rid of any extra salt they might take in when feeding.
Snow petrels are birds that are exclusively found in the islands of Antarctica. They live in colonies or flocks and are incredibly tough, as they easily survive the low temperatures with a high wind chill factor. Around 4 million snow petrels inhabit this continent. They don't normally migrate, but during the winter, they tend to move north. Snow petrels really undergo a lot when searching for food, but they have adapted to the cold climate in the Antarctic peninsula. Sometimes in winter, the snow petrels even stay south in the cold winter, just for food as there are fewer competitors than in summer!
There are around 46 species of birds found on the continent of Antarctica. Some examples are albatross, petrels, penguins, skuas, swans, jaegers, and cormorants. All of these birds have waterproof feathers above their insulating feathers: they have adapted incredibly to surviving the cold climate of Antarctica. Penguins are the royal birds of Antarctica that can swim but don't know anything about flying. Sometimes the penguins' young are also killed by petrels.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our gray-cheeked parakeet facts and stilt owl facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Antarctic petrel coloring pages.