Sunday, August 25, 2013

Petrels Galore

We should just get it out of the way...Trindade Petrel was bird of the trip. Following flocks of foraging shearwaters around for hours paid off big when this sleek, long-winged Pterodroma came in to the boat. Within seconds of calling the bird out, Brian Patteson let out a strange sound over the PA system that sounded something like a bleating goat, and the bird made several close passes for absolutely crushing looks. My knees became weak and started to buckle as the bird came in staggeringly close. The volleys of shutter-clicks were deafening.

No one missed the bird, and exclamations of ecstasy could be heard whenever the bird came by. Brian said the bleating goat noise was his petrel attraction sound, which although ridiculous certainly did not do anything to keep the bird away from us.

Whoever was in charge of coloring Trindade Petrels must have been inspired Sooty Shearwaters. But seeing as Trindade Petrels fly like Pterodromas and Sooty Shearwaters fly like shearwaters, the potential for confusion is rather low unless you get truly poor looks or you are a sketchy birder.

Trindade Petrel actually comes in 3 flavors, light, intermediate and dark. All of these photos are of an intermediate "morph"; we did see a dark bird but my attempts to photograph it were not exactly successful.

I kind of like the doomy lighting in this shot. Such a sleek-looking bird.

Black-capped Petrel was the expected Pterodroma of the trip, and they did not disappoint. These large petrels are easy to identify even at considerable distance, due to their size, high arcing flight, inky blackness of the upperwing and extensive white white rump patch. Even on the Sunday trip, where we had fewer birds than the previous day, the boat ride was punctuated with regular BCPE sightings.

The birds are easily identified from the underside as well. This is probably my best BCPE crush of the trip...I am happy with it.

The majority of BCPEs were undergoing primary molt, and were shaped something like this bird.

The petrels frequently flew up the wake of the boat (when there was a chum line), and gave everyone good looks and dry mouths.

Although we did see a number of white-faced individuals (rumored to be potentially be another species entirely), I reckon all the BCPEs pictured here are dark-faced birds. Of course if you are an experienced petrel wizard and disagree (maybe there is an intermediate bird in here), let me know.

Here is a fresh juvenile, with nice silvery feathers and no sign of molt. Is good bird, no? Looks like an entirely different beast than the BCPE in the top photo.


  1. I think that fresh juvenile is actually a 'white-faced' individual. The molt is slightly different for the two types as I understand it with the pale birds pretty much finished and fresh by now.

    Besides, they breed in our winter so I don't think there should be any obvious juvies out there. I could be wrong on that though.

    BCPE photo #4 looks sort of pale-to-intermediatey to me too.

    1. Are juveniles darker in the face than adults? Face pattern of the juv looks near-identical to other birds; no white above the eye. Howell says dark-faced fresh juvs are around June-August, white-faced May-July.

    2. Well, you may be right then. Kate mentioned on a Seabirding post that white-faced are fresh now whereas dark-faced are still molting. But I admit the presence of juvis confuses me.

  2. You just love making me drool don't cha? I need a bib when I view these images.

    Awesome post.

    1. Thanks Mia. Someday I would like bibs (and perhaps stranger things) to be required to have at hand when reading this blog.

  3. Great sightings and reports, Steve.