Black-capped Petrel, Pterodroma hasitata

The Black-capped Petrel, (Pterodroma hasitata), also known as the Diablotin, is a species of seabird native to the West Indies. Once widespread throughout this region, it is now far less common. It is an uncommon vagrant to the southeastern United States, and an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe. Habitat loss, introduced predators, and human activities are the main causes for the species’ decline.

This long-winged petrel has a grayish brown back and wings, with a white nape and rump. Its underparts are mainly white apart from a black cap that extends to cover the eye in some individuals. The underwing markings are darkened.

This bird feeds on squid and other marine foodstuffs that it picks from the ocean surface. It is a nocturnal breeder, possibly to escape predation from gulls, hawks or crows. Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.

The bird at one time bred commonly throughout the mountain cliffs of the Greater Antilles. But today there are only three confirmed breeding sites of the Black-capped Petrel, all in the high mountains of Hispaniola.

Its local name — Diablotin — means “little devil.” It got the name because of its nocturnal habits and its odd-sounding mating call, which may have suggested to locals the presence of evil spirits in the dark.

Image Caption: Black-capped Petrel, Pterodroma hasitata, Location: Gulf Stream off of Hatteras, North Carolina, United States. Credit: Patrick Coin/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)