Northern giant petrel

Northern giant petrel close-up
Northern giant petrel (Photo: Jeremy Smith)
Giant petrel cleaning up the beachThis northern giant petrel has a dark grey face and shows a powerful beak. Northern giant petrel in the snow Northern giant petrel chick sitting on its nest Recording the location of northern giant petrels

Scientific name: Macronectes halli

Physical description

Northern giant petrels are dark grey, whitish on the face and chin, and mottled white on the head, neck and breast. Their plumage becomes paler and more mottled as they age. Adults have a conspicuous pale grey iris, whereas juveniles have dark ones.

Distribution and abundance

Northern giant petrels are regular visitors to southern Australian and South African waters in winter and spring. They usually arrive in Australian waters about one month earlier than do the southern giant petrels.

Northern giant petrels breed on subantarctic islands and South Georgia, between 46° and 54°S but do not breed on the Antarctic continent.

Conservation status: least concern with populations increasing

Breeding

Northern giant petrels arrive at their colonies from early August to September and lay one egg. During the breeding period, males undertake a larger part of the incubation and guard duties than do the females. Chicks fledge from February to March.

Eggs and chicks can be lost by desertion, trampling by adults and predation by skuas.

Diet and feeding

Both southern and northern giant petrel feed on krill, squid, fish, other small seabirds, and carcasses of marine mammals. Northern giant petrel scavenge and prey on seal pups and placentae, penguins and albatross. However, they rely more heavily on fish during winter months.

This page was last modified on 16 February 2012.