Antarctic birds: Blue Petrel

Next up is a group of tubenoses that often puzzle birdwatchers: the Blue Petrel and different species of prions. Today we start with the easiest one, the Blue Petrel. Even though the Blue Petrel is not directly related to the different species of prions, it’s often mistaken for one. They are all fairly small and grey seabirds with some black markings on the back and wings. With their greyish-blue colour they are often difficult to see over the similar coloured water. The main difference between the prions and the Blue Petrel is found in the tip of the tail: black in all prions, white in the Blue Petrel. This sounds like an impossible to see detail, but the white often contrasts with the darker sea, while the black blends in. Often it can be see from a reasonable distance, even without binoculars.

Blue Petrel in flight

Blue Petrels breed on a variety of subantarctic islands, like South Georgia. Here they dig burrows and lay a single egg (like all tubenoses). They share both incubation and feeding and around 3-4 months after the egg is laid, the chick fledges.

Blue Petrels have a characteristic dark breast band, something that makes them stick out from the prions as well.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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