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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




European Storm-petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus

Comments to webmaster

European Storm-petrel  Steve Rogers

European Storm-petrels. Photographed by Steve Rogers off the Isles of Scilly in Great Britain.

Other Names
Harrison (1983) uses the name British Storm-petrel..

Breeds on rat free islands off Norway, Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Britain, Ireland, in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. From April to September.

The author saw several European Storm-petrels at sea from a ferry from the Shetland Islands to Norway.  I later encountered this bird breeding in a stone tower called a broch on the Island Mousa near Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. There is a boat trip to Mousa from May to July which  eaves at 11 PM and returns at 1 AM. With a torch (flashlight) you walk to the broch to see the Storm-petrels entering and leaving their nests. After the first of July it stays light much longer and the captain  does not make the night trips.

On August 3, I went on a day trip which left at 12:30 in the afternoon and returned at 5 PM. We walked to the broch. an Iron Age structure unique to Scotland. A broch is a short double walled tower with a staircase between the walls. Archeologist are not quite sure why they were built or what they were for. I climbed to the top and on the way up heard one of the Storm-petrels making a soft purring noise within the wall.

Disburses in the Atlantic south to South Africa, primarily on the eastern side where in stays mainly in boundary zones between shelf littoral and deep ocean. November- March.

Where To See in ABA Area
This bird is only rarely been seen in waters off New England and Canada and is likely to be overlooked due to the abundance of Wilson's Storm-petrels. Advanced birders should learn the characteristics that distinguish the bird from Wilson's Storm-petrels and be on the lookout especially on offshore trips. Since it is a northern hemisphere breeder it is most likely to be seen in fall and early spring. It has not been seen on recent New England trips. It has been reported on Cape Hatteras pelagics where it was identified from a picture.

Like Wilson's Storm-petrel the European Storm-petrel follows ships and can be attracted by chum. Feeds by pattering on the surface with wings raised above the horizontal in a steeper V than Wilsons Storm-petrel. Attracted to fish oil and known to follow fishing boats. Found in groups.

European Storm-petrel top Steve Rogers


Slightly smaller than a Wilson's Storm-petrel.

Feet should not trail behind the tail when flying.

Viewed from the top, the upper wing has a fainter covert bars and from a distance may appear to have no wing bar at all.


Both this phograph and the one below taken by Steve Rogers off the Isles of Scilly in Great Britain.

European SP below Steve Rogers

Viewed from below there is a distinct white area formed by the white greater underwing coverts.  This can be harder to see on birds with worn plumage.

Notice also that the white rump extends underneath as in Wilson's Storm-petrel

Flock of European Storm-petrels Steve Rogers

European Storm-petrels photographed by Steve Rogers off the Isles of Scilly in Great Britain. The identification problem for New England birders is that we will never see a flock of European Storm-petrels but rather one small bird in a flock of hundreds of Wilson's Storm-petrel.

Photographs on this page were kindly shared by Steve Rogers. Steve in his own words is a keen birder and photographer based in Cornwall.

"Cornish born and bred, I live in Truro. I started birding at the age of ten and 35 years later, the hobby is still strong. In my spare time I also run the optics shop in Truro! I rarely bird outside of the county now, preferring to stay local except for organized birding holidays abroad. My main interest is migration, an aspect of birding that Cornwall lends itself to perfectly. Sadly my shop commitments don't allow me to be birding every day but I will do my best to post all the interesting images and blog when time allows."

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

Flood, Robert L and Thomas, Bryan (2007) Indentification of 'black-and-white' storm-petrels of the North Atlantic British Birds vol 100 p. 407

Olney, Derrick and Scofield, Paul (2007) Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwater of the World Princeton University Press Princeton