Unsorted Wild Birds

Gadfly Petrels (Pterodroma)

The Gadfly petrels are seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes.

Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata)



These medium to large petrels feed on food items picked from the ocean surface.

The short, sturdy bills of the Pterodroma species in this group, about 35 altogether, are adapted for soft prey taken at the surface; they have twisted intestines for digesting marine animals which have unusual biochemistries.

Their complex wing and face marking are probably for interspecific recognition.

Breeding / Nesting

These birds nest in colonies on islands and are pelagic when not breeding. One white egg is laid usually in a burrow or on open ground. They are nocturnal at the breeding colonies.

Great-winged Petrel or Grey-faced Petrel, Pterodroma macroptera

Species in Taxonomic Order

The taxonomy of the gadfly petrels is being reformed at the moment. Several genera have been split off over time, as they are closer to the procellarine and Puffinus shearwaters.

Some subspecies have been raised to full species rank. The arrangement given here is traditional, but annotates the changes proposed by Austin (1998) and Bretagnolle et al. (1998). For the current taxonomy, see also Brooke (2004).

  • Genus Pterodroma
    • Pterodroma baraui, Barau’s PetrelPterodroma arminjoniana, Trindade Petrel
      • Pterodroma (arminjoniana) heraldica, Herald Petrel recognized by the International Ornithological Congress, however the American Ornithologists’ Union (SACC) has not recognized the split as of yet.Split from Pterodroma arminjoniana
      Pterodroma externa, Juan Fernandez PetrelPterodroma neglecta, Kermadec PetrelPterodroma phaeopygia, Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma atrata, Henderson PetrelPterodroma alba, Phoenix PetrelPterodroma feae, Fea’s Petrel
      • Pterodroma (feae) desertae, Deserta’s Petrel The International Ornithological Congress is contemplating a split.
      Pterodroma madeira, Zino’s Petrel or Madeira PetrelPterodroma sp., Canary Islands Petrel, (prehistoric) – possibly extirpated population of extant speciesPterodroma mollis, Soft-plumaged PetrelPterodroma cahow, Bermuda PetrelPterodroma hasitata, Black-capped PetrelPterodroma caribbaea, Jamaica Petrel, (possibly extinct)Pterodroma incerta, Atlantic PetrelPterodroma lessonii, White-headed PetrelPterodroma magentae, Magenta PetrelPterodroma macroptera, Great-winged PetrelPterodroma solandri, Providence PetrelPterodroma ultima, Murphy’s PetrelPterodroma cf. leucoptera, Mangareva Petrel, (possibly extinct)Ranguru or Chatham Petrel (Pterodroma axillaris) Pterodroma cervicalis, White-necked PetrelPterodroma occulta, Falla’s Petrel or Vanuatu Petrel
      • Split from Pterodroma cervicalis
      Pterodroma sp., Chatham Extinct Petrel, (prehistoric)Pterodroma sp., Henderson Island Petrel, (prehistoric)Pterodroma jugabilis, O‘ahu Petrel, (prehistoric)Pterodroma rupinarum, Large Saint Helena Petrel, (extinct)
  • Subgenus Cookilaria

A Pleistocene fossil from Aldabra, Indian Ocean, was described as Pterodroma kurodai. Biogeographically, it could belong into any genus.

Bermuda Petrel, Pterodroma cahow

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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