Southern Giant Petrel

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Common Name: Southern Giant Petrel
Scientific Name: Macronectes giganteus

Size: 37-39 inches (87-99 cm)

Habitat: Southern Hemisphere; breeds on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Staten Island and islands off Chubut Province (Argentina), South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands, islands near the Antarctic Continent and Peninsula, Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Crozet Islands (French Southern Territories), Heard Island and Macquarie Island (Australia), with smaller populations on Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha (St Helena to UK), Diego Ramirez and Isla Noir (Chile), Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), and four localities on the Antarctic Continent including Terre Adélie.

Status: Vulnerable. Global Population: 97,000 mature individuals. The population of southern giant petrels underwent a decline of at least 20 percent over the last 60 years. Between 1997 and 1998, an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 southern giant petrels were killed in illegal and unregulated longline fisheries for Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Other threats include a decline in the population of the southern elephant seal Mirounga leonine (an important source of carrion for the petrel), increasing disturbance by humans and persecution. The Southern Giant Petrel is listed as endangered in Australia.

Diet: Seal and penguin carcasses, offal, refuse from ships and discarded fish; they often feed close to trawlers and vessels fishing with longlines. They also prey upon penguins and other birds, krill and amphipod crustaceans, fish and squid. During chick rearing, they depend heavily on penguins and seal colonies, as a food resource.

Nesting: There are two color forms of this species: a rare white form that is flecked with black and a dark form with mottled greyish-brown feathers with a paler belly. In this dark form, the head, neck and upper area of the breast whitens with age. The sexes are similar and juveniles are sooty-black in color. It typically nests in loose colonies on grassy or bare ground, often close to penguin colonies. However, in the Falkland Islands it can nest in large, relatively dense colonies. Average age of first breeding is c.10 years, and mean adult annual survival at South Georgia is 90%.

Cool Facts: Petrels are able to regurgitate foul-smelling oil which they spit at intruders; this habit earned the southern giant petrel the alternative name of ‘stinker'.

Males and females have distinct foraging ranges during the breeding season.

Found in Songbird ReMix Seabirds 1

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