Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Oceanites oceanicus
A Wilson's Storm-Petrel specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small, dark seabird, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel is most easily identified by its dark brown body, rounded wings, and conspicuous white rump patch. Other field marks include black legs, yellow-webbed feet, and a squared-off tail. Male and female Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are similar in all seasons. Wilson’s Storm-Petrel breeds on small islands off the coast of Antarctica. After the breeding season, this species wanders widely throughout the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. This species also wanders into the Northern Hemisphere (where it is summer, not winter) in the Indian Ocean, western portions of the North Atlantic Ocean, and in parts of the North Pacific Ocean. Wilson’s Storm Petrels breed on isolated rocky cliffs and beaches in areas free of ice and snow. During the “winter,” this species is normally found in deep water many miles offshore. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels do not voluntarily come ashore outside of the breeding season, but may be blown into inshore waters or large inland bodies of water during hurricanes and other large storms. This species primarily eats plankton, krill, and small fish. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are difficult birds to observe. Only a few birdwatchers, most of them professional ornithologists, travel to Antarctica to visit this species’ breeding grounds. In most of the world, birdwatchers seek out Wilson’s Storm-Petrels as part of oceangoing birding tours which sail out to where seabirds are common. From the deck of a boat, these birds are often seen foraging for food by skipping along the surface of the water, wings outstretched and feet hanging down, while dipping down to catch prey. More rarely, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are seen from shore, always with the aid of high-magnification optics, during or after large storms. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are only active at night during the breeding season, but become more active during the day at other times of the year.

Threat Status: Least Concern