Storm Petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus


Stormie (common slang used by birdwatchers), Mother Carey's chickens, Sea Swallow, Gourdal (Kerry), Little Peter.

Status: Summer visitor to all coasts from April to August.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland as nearly 25% of the European population breeds in Ireland. The majority of this population breed at less than ten sites. The European population has been assessed as Secure.

Identification: A small, dark seabird with a white rump, recalling a House Martin. Small in size with short wings, a quick flight action, sometimes dangles legs over the sea when feeding. Straight bill with hooked tip and tube-shaped nostrils on the upper mandible, giving distinctive bill shape if seen at close range. Nostrils used to excrete salt. The smallest of the petrels found in Irish waters and only likely confusion is with the scarcer Leach's Storm-petrel (the Wilson's Petrel is very rare). Small size, square shaped rump patch extending down onto the sides and quicker flight action aid separation. Diagnostic broad, whitish band on underwing. Square shaped tail.

Similar Species: Leach's Storm Petrel and House Martin.

Call: Calls from burrows at night and sometimes in the day. Purring call with occassional grunts.

Diet: Taken from the sea. Small fish, plankton, molluscs and crustaceans.

: Breeds in colonies on islands off the west coast. Found from Co. Cork to Co. Donegal. A difficult species to survey as it only returns to its nest site after dark which is concealed under vegetation, in boulder fields and in old buildings and walls. The great bulk of the population is found in Co. Kerry with the Skelligs and the Blaskets having huge colonies. The largest colony surveyed in the world to date is on a Inishtooskert, in the Blaskets, a small uninhabited island easily visible from the mainland.

Wintering: Pelagic, winters at sea in the South Atlantic.

Where to See: Reliable sites to see Storm Petrel in Ireland include Skerries in County Dublin, Carnsore Point in Wexford and Annagh Head in County Mayo.

Monitored by: Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002. 

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