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Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Silhouette SeabirdsSeabirds
Wilson's Storm-PetrelOceanites oceanicus
  • ORDER: Procellariiformes
  • FAMILY: Oceanitidae

Basic Description

Don't let the dainty Wilson’s Storm-Petrel deceive you—this is one of the world’s hardiest seabirds, at home in the stormy Antarctic as well as the North Atlantic. Barely bigger than swallows, these small, dark brown birds with white tail coverts flutter and glide across oceans in search of plankton. They orient into the wind, patter their feet on the surface, and seize tiny prey with the bill. They often feed around baleen whales, which carry plankton to the surface as they forage.

More ID Info
image of range map for Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

In North America, look for Wilson’s Storm-Petrels along the Atlantic Coast, not the Pacific. They are sometimes visible from the beach, but a better way to see them is to go to sea on a pelagic birding trip. Wilson’s are often the first seabirds seen in the morning and often the most numerous of the “tubenose” species offshore between May and August. Small numbers also summer in lower Chesapeake Bay. Storm-petrels' size—they're much smaller than other seabirds—and often fluttery flight are distinctive.

Other Names

  • Paíño de Wilson (Spanish)
  • Océanite de Wilson (French)
  • Cool Facts