LEACH’S STORM PETREL

LEACH’S STORM PETREL(Oceanodroma leucorhoa)    Visitor
DESCRIPTION: The Leach’s Storm Petrel is a mainly black bird with long narrow wings. The bill and feet also are black. It has a white rump and a light brown bar on the upper wing. Sexes are similar. The tail is slightly forked. It is about 20 cm (8 in.) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Oceanodroma-leucorhoa
NAME: The English name ‘Leach’s’ was given to this storm petrel in memory of William E. Leach, an English marine biologist.. The name ‘Petrel’ has its origin in St. Peter walking on the water, because petrels seem to ‘walk’ on the water when feeding. It is named ‘storm’ because seamen associated it with bad weather. The Latin genus name ‘Oceanodroma’ means roughly ‘running over the ocean’, an allusion to the bird’s seemingly walking on the water. The Latin species name ‘leucorhoa’ means ‘white rump’, for its white coverts (the feathers above the tail).
HABITAT: Open ocean areas where cold and warm currents meet.
DIET: This species of petrel feeds in ocean areas where cold and warm currents meet and bring swarms of small crustaceans near the surface. They usually don’t dive. They will follow whales and dolphins for sources of food, but not fishing boats.
NESTING: Leach’s storm petrels build their nests in burrows, sometimes including several branches with nests in the end chambers. Those chambers are then lined with plant material. As with other seabirds, they only visit their nests at night, and walk clumsily on land. The largest colonies are located in Newfoundland, but there are also large ones in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Maritimes. One white egg is laid, which is incubated by both parents, who also both feed the young by regurgitation.
DISTRIBUTION: This petrel breeds on remote islands near the coasts of North America and Asia. It winters in the tropical seas, including Hawaii sometimes.
CONSERVATION: The Leach’s storm petrel is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, due to steady declines in its global population. However trends are difficult to assess due to the nocturnal habits of this species when breeding, remoteness of breeding sites, and pelagic behavior. One major threat comes from introduced mammals such as rats and mice on breeding sites. Another one is from predatory birds such as gulls, which hunt them at night on their breeding sites, while another one is collision and stranding due to their attraction to artificial light. There are measures taken in some places to eliminate rodents from the bird’s breeding areas, and also to protect the birds from colliding with sources of artificial light.
NOTES: The Leach’s Storm Petrel is a pelagic (lives on the open ocean) seabird that only comes to land when breeding, or when pushed inland following storms (hence the name).
Petrels are part of an order of birds that includes seabirds with a ‘tubenose’ bill. This highly specialized bill is made of plates and the nostrils are inside one of them in the shape of a ‘tube’. These birds drink seawater, and they have glands in their bill to extract the salt from the water. Their nostrils also have a self-defensive feature – when threatened they can spit out a foul-smelling oil from that organ. Petrels also have a high sense of olfaction and their bill is equipped to detect food sources near the water surface.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Wilson’s Storm Petrel
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leach%27s_storm_petrel
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/leachs-storm-petrel
https://birdtherock.com/tag/leachs-storm-petrel/
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/618/_/Leachs_Storm-Petrel.aspx

Leach's Storm Petrel - Apr. 4, 2006 - C. Schlawe, USFWS
Leach’s Storm Petrel – Apr. 4, 2006 – C. Schlawe, USFWS
Leach's Storm Petrel - Fippennies Ledge off Cape Cod - Aug. 18, 2010 - © Eric Masterson
Leach’s Storm Petrel – Fippennies Ledge off Cape Cod – Aug. 18, 2010 – © Eric Masterson

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