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Broad-billed Prion

The Broad-billed Prion (Pachyptila vittata), is a small seabird found throughout oceans and coastal areas in the Southern Hemisphere. Its colonies can be found on Gough Island, Marion Island, and on the sub-Antarctic Antipodes Islands off the coast of New Zealand.

Though the broad-billed prion is a small seabird, it is a large prion, with a length of 24 inches and a weight of 7 ounces, and a massive bill. It has gray upper plumage, a dark cap, black “W” on the wings, a black-tipped tail, and white under parts. The head pattern is more distinct and the tail band is less extensive than that of the similar Fairy Prion.

Its diet consists mainly of plankton and crustaceans, but, like other Antarctic prions, it uses its special bill to filter this food from the water. The bill has comb-like fringes called lamellae, similar in principle to the filter plates of baleen whales. It feeds by running across the ocean surface with its bill open under water, moving its head from side to side and skimming for copepods and other small creatures. The flight is heavier and slower than that of other prions. This species feeds in large flocks but does not follow ships.

Breeding begins on the coastal slopes of the breeding islands in July or August. The parents incubate the egg for 50 days, and then spend another 50 days raising the chick. The main predators are skuas, although on some islands, cats and rats have reduced this prion’s numbers drastically. Colonies disperse from December onwards, although some adults remain in the vicinity of the breeding islands and may visit their burrows in winter.

Broad-billed Prion


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