Cape petrel

Thomas' Cape petrel with black-and-white feathers sits before a red background..
Thomas' Cape petrel (Photo: M. Foster)

Scientific name: Daption capense

Physical description

Cape petrels (Daption capense) are distinctively patterned black-and-white on their upperparts, while their underparts are mostly white. The chin and throat are blackish and the tail has a blackish tip. The underwing is white with black margins, and the bill, legs and feet are all black.

Distribution & abundance

Cape petrels breed in colonies on the Antarctic continent, subtemperate islands near New Zealand and on subantarctic islands, in the South Atlantic and the South Indian Oceans.

Cape petrels are distributed across a much wider area of the Southern Ocean than are Antarctic petrel and Southern fulmars. In the winter months, Cape petrel reach Australian seas as far north as 27°S on the east coast and on the west coast to Carnarvon (24°S).

The population and breeding status of the Cape petrel is satisfactory. At some locations feral cats and rats harass the birds during breeding season, but the inhospitable nature of their nesting habitat protects them from serious depredation.

Conservation status:least concern

Breeding

Cape petrels lay one white egg between November and early December. They are unable to recognise their own eggs, and Snow petrel chicks have been observed to be reared by Cape petrels.

Cape petrels generally do not start breeding until they are at least five years old.

Diet and feeding

Cape petrels feed mainly on krill, squid and small fish. They persistently follow ships and boats to take discarded scraps and offal and also scavenge on carcasses.

This page was last modified on 16 February 2012.