Unsorted Wild Birds

Fairy Prions

The Fairy Prions or Narrow-billed Prion, Pachyptila turtur, is a small seabird with standard Prion plumage, which is black upperparts and white underneath with an “M” wing marking.


The Fairy Prion is the smallest prion and it measures between 23–28 cm (9.1–11.0 in) long. Its plumage is blue-grey on its upperparts and white underneath. They have a dark “M” on their upperparts extending to their wingtips, and their tail is wedge-shaped with a dark tip. They have a blue bill and feet.

Fairy Prion or Narrow-billed Prion, Pachyptila turtur


The diet consists mainly of planktonic crustaceans and other tiny sea animals, which they feed at night from the water’s surface.


They breed colonially and prefer small islands. Their nest is situated in soil, hidden by vegetation, and is dug with their bill or feet, or it is in a hollow in a crevice. When coming back to their nest at night, they will coo softly and listen for their mate.

Range and habitat

The Fairy Prion is found throughout oceans and coastal areas in the Southern Hemisphere. Their colonies can be found on Chatham, Snares, and Antipodes Islands of New Zealand, the Bass Strait Islands of Australia, the Falkland Islands, Marion Island, the Crozet Islands, and Macquarie Island.


Widespread and common throughout its large range, with an estimated population of 5,000,000, the Fairy Prion is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its range is 24,600,000 km2 (9,500,000 sq mi).


The Fairy Prion is a member of the Pachyptila genus, and along with the Blue Petrel makes up the Prions. They, in turn, are members of the Procellariidae family and the Procellariiformes order.

The prions are small and typically eat just zooplankton; however, as a member of the Procellariiformes, they share certain identifying features. First, they have nasal passages that attach to the upper bill called naricorns.

Although the nostrils on the Albatross are on the sides of the bill. The bills of Procellariiformes are also unique in that they are split into between 7 and 9 horny plates. They produce stomach oil made up of wax esters and triglycerides that are stored in the proventriculus (stomach). This is used against predators as well as an energy-rich food source for chicks and for adults during their long flights.

Finally, they also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.


Pachyptila, the word, comes from the Greek words pakhus and ptilon. Pakhus means thick or stout and ptilon means a feather. Also from the Greek language, Prion comes from the word priōn meaning a saw, which is in reference to the serrated edges of its bill.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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