Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cape Petrel

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 1

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cape Petrel ~ by Ian Montgomery

My records show that no Petrel and only one Shearwater (Buller’s) has ever featured as bird of the week. That’s partly because, until recently, I didn’t have many photos of members of this family of seabirds (Procellaridae) but that has been largely corrected by recent trips to the Sub-Antarctic and Norfolk Island. Petrels and Shearwaters are often challenging birds to identify, so I’m going to start with an easy and attractive one that featured prominently on the Sub-Antarctic Islands trip last November.

The striking chequered black and white pattern on the back and wings is unique. The white patches on the primary and secondary flight feathers are translucent and appears as ‘windows’ when seen from below in bright light, as in the second photo. We encountered Cape Petrels soon after leaving Dunedin, and as they follow ships, they were almost constant companions for most of the voyage.
Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 2

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 2

With a length of 35-40cm/14-16in, they’re comparable in size to a domestic pigeon, though with much longer wings, and are often called Cape Pigeons. They feed on krill, small fish, etc., either by swimming buoyantly on the surface and pecking in a rather pigeon-like fashion or by snatching morsels in flight. They’ll readily feed on marine scraps left by others and often follow whales.
Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 3

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 3

As you can guess from the name, the species was originally named from a specimen collected at the Cape of Good Hope and described by the father of taxonomy, Linnaeus, in 1758. Cape Petrels are very characteristic bird of the southern oceans right around the planet and range from the coast of Antarctica to the Tropic of Capricorn, and even reach the equator in the cold Humboldt current on the western side of South America. They occur around Australia in the southern winter but are mainly an offshore bird, unless beach-wrecked by storms. The global population is in the millions, and they can occur in large flocks, though we encountered them mainly in small numbers.
Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 4

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 4

The nest on most of the sub-Antartic Islands around the world and on islands along the coast of Antarctica itself. There is a small colony on Macquarie Island and larger colonies on the Southern Islands of New Zealand (Snares, Auckland, Campbell, Bounty, Antipodes and Chatham). These belong to a separate race, australe, smaller than the nominate race.
Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 5

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Ian 5

I loved watching them soaring and wheeling around the ship, and they looked as if they enjoyed it too. I got very used to their attendance and found their familiar presence reassuring in the vast and sometimes alien and stormy remoteness of the Southern Ocean.
I have another request for moral and spiritual support (and so far you’ve never failed me :-})! I’m planning to go to Eungella National Park west of Mackay next weekend in search of the Eungella Honeyeater. I’ve never seen it before, and we need photos for the Pizzey and Knight digital project.
Best wishes

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818B
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:

Lee’s Addition:

And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (Matthew 25:15 KJV)

Looks like the Petrel flew under some dropping white paint. I am sure that it helped in IDing it. Ian is correct about that unique pattern. I am amazed at how unique all the birds were created. Each has its own patterns, food requirements and places to live. Just like all of us. We each have a unique niche to find and enjoy. Thankfully, Ian has found one of his niches. He is an adventurous and fantastic photographer.

Yes, Ian, we will be praying for you as you take this next adventure to find the Eungella Honeyeater and whatever else pops up in front of your lens. Also for your safe journey.

Check out Ian’s Procellaridae family and the article about the Buller’s Shearwater.

The Procellariidae – Petrels, Shearwaters Family here.

Ian’s Bird of the Week


One thought on “Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cape Petrel

  1. Pingback: Ian's Bird of the Week – Cape Petrel « Lee's Birdwatching … | Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Please leave a Comment. They are encouraging.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s