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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones


Storm-petrels Index
Wilson's Storm-petrel
Leach's Storm-petrel
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
White-faced Storm-petrel
European Storm-petrel
Separating NE Storm-petrels

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Leach's Storm-petrel

Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Leach's Storm-petrel  Scott Suner

Leach's Storm-petrel photographed by Scott Surner on BBC 2011 Pelagic to Continental Shelf Edge. Awesome photo.

Northern Hemisphere Breeder
Leach's Storm-petrel like all Ocenodroma is a Northern hemisphere breeder and therefore busy during our summer. Migrates south during our winter.

In the north Atlantic breeds on offshore islands from Maine, Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. A few pairs breed on Penikese Island south of Cape Cod. Regularly seen in Cape Cod Bay during the summer. Take the Plymouth or Barnstable whale watch. Also in Greenland and at St. Kilda in Scotland.In the north Pacific breeds on offshore islands from Japan to the Aleutians and Alaska and south to the Baja Peninsula.

Atlantic birds winter off the coast of Brazil. Occurs in  Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Leach's lays a single egg in shallow burrows 1 -3 feet in length. Both parents take turns incubating and both feed the chick, coming and going from the burrow only at night. Burrows can be collapsed by humans walking about over them and nests are disturbed by dogs and feral cats.
Young are fed by both parents by regurgitation.

When To See
Immature non-breeding birds can be seen offshore on the edge of the Continental Shelf and at Cashes Ledge in summer. Late fall, especially October, any Storm-petrel on Stellwagen Bank should be closely examined as it is probably Leach's rather than Wilson's Storm-petrel. Also seen from seawatches on Cape Cod during late fall and early winter. This bird is perhaps easier to see on west coast pelagics. Hard to observe on the breeding grounds as it enters and leaves burrows at night and human presence disturbs nest by collapsing burrows.

Identification - Dark with White Rump Patch
Similar plumage to Wilson's Storm-petrel. Leach's is larger and has a forked tail. See the photograph by David Jones to the right. This photo was taken on the 2010 BBC pelagic south of Cape Cod.

A small vertical dark band dividing the white rump visible in this photo may not be visible on all birds. This dark divider is variable by age and subspecies. See the article in American Birds.

Tail is forked. Legs do not trail behind the tail when flying. Bill, legs and feet are black.

White rump patch does not extend down around the rump.

Light band on wing reaches the leading edge of the wing.See pictures below.

These characteristics are hard to observe at sea. Look for a larger, longer winged bird with a slower wing beat, the forked tail and the fact that legs do not extend beyond the tail. ,

Leach's Storm-petrel Dave Jones
Leach's  and WSP Jeremiah Trimble

Jeremiah Trimble photograph of Leach’s Storm-petrels sitting on the water.

Photo by Eric Masterson taken in August on Cashes Ledge

Numbering the birds from left (1) to right (4).

Bird 1 is possibly 2 birds and not identifiable.

Bird 2 is a Wilson's because the legs clearly trail the tail.

Bird 3 is Wilsons ( light band on wings does not reach the leading edge, tail not forked). Bird 3 legs are still dragging below so they do not appear behind the tail.

Bird 4 appears to be Leach's. (Forked tail, white rump patch does not wrap, legs do not trail.) Identification by Emmalee Tarry who readily admits to being wrong before.

Storm-petrels Dave Jones

Can you identify the two Storm-petrels in this photo by David Jones?

Left bird is obviously a Wilson's Storm-petrel. Notice the feet trailing the tail and the white bar on the wings stopping short of the leading edge of the wing. White rump patch wraps to lower body.

Right most bird appears to be a Leach's Storm-petrel. Notice the white bar of the right wing reaches the leading edge and the feet do not trail behind the tail.

For more fun with separating Storm-petrels see
Separating New England Storm-petrels

Seabirds | Storm-petrels  |  Wilson's SP |  Leach's SP  | Band- rumped SP  | White-faced SP  |  European SP  | Separating | Top of Page       Comments to webmaster

Harrison, Peter (1983) Seabirds an identification guide Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston