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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Wilson’s Storm-petrel

The Wilson’s Storm-petrel or Wilson’s Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) is a small seabird of the storm-petrel family Hydrobatidae.

It breeds in colonies on the Antarctic coastlines and nearby islands such as the South Shetland Islands. Preferred nesting sites are close to the sea in rock crevices where the female lays a single white egg.

It spends the rest of the year at sea, and moves into the northern oceans in the southern hemisphere’s winter. It is much more common in the north Atlantic than the Pacific.

It is strictly pelagic outside the breeding season and prefers to stay at sea. This, together with its remote breeding sites, makes Wilson’s Petrel a difficult bird to see from land. Only in severe storms might this species be pushed into headlands.

It is quite common off eastern North America in the northern summer and the seasonal abundance of this bird in suitable European waters has been revealed through pelagic boat trips, most notably in the area of the Isles of Scilly, Great Britain. This may be the world’s most common seabird.

This storm-petrel is strictly nocturnal during breeding season. This helps them avoid predation by gulls and skuas. They will even avoid coming to land on clear moonlit nights. Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.

The Wilson’s Petrel is a small bird, 16-18.5 cm in length with a 38-42 cm wingspan. It is slightly larger than the European Storm-petrel. It is essentially dark brown in all plumages, except for white rump. It differs from that species by its pale bar on the upper wing, plain underwings and longer legs.

It has a more direct gliding flight than the Storm Petrel, but shares the habit of pattering on the water surface as it picks planktonic food items from the ocean surface, with the exception of its wings being more upraised. Like European Storm-petrel, it is highly gregarious, and will also follow ships.

This bird is named after the Scottish-American ornithologist Alexander Wilson.

It is the mascot of Oglethorpe University.

Wilson8217s Storm-petrel