- ORDER: Procellariiformes
- FAMILY: Oceanitidae
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
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.
- Paíño de Wilson (Spanish)
- Océanite de Wilson (French)
- Cool Facts
- Wilson's Storm-Petrel is one of the widest-ranging of all seabirds. It breeds as far south as Antarctica, but regularly travels to all of the world's oceans except the North Pacific and Arctic.
- Early mariners were impressed by storm-petrels’ ability to survive far out to sea. The name “petrel” derives from Peter’s walk on water (however brief) in the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian Bible—a reference to the storm-petrel’s tendency to patter its feet on the water as it forages. In New England and Newfoundland, fishermen still refer to storm-petrels as “Mother Carey’s chickens,” a reference to mater caritas, the Virgin Mary.
- Wilson’s Storm-Petrel’s genus name, Oceanites, is taken from Greek mythology. It's a reference to the uncountable “oceanides,” the daughters of Tethys and Oceanus, two pre-Olympian gods (or Titans). Thus, both the bird’s habitat and its abundance are referenced in the genus name.