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Fea's Petrel Picture

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Fea's Petrel (Pterodroma feae) is a small seabird in the gadfly petrel genus, Pterodroma. It was previously considered to be a subspecies of the Soft-plumaged Petrel, P. mollis, but they are actually not closely related at all. However, P. feae is very closely related to Zino's Petrel, another species recently split from P. mollis. They are estimated to have diverged at the end of the Early Pleistocene, 850.000 years ago (Sangster et al., 2002). Given the uncertainties of molecular dating in Procellariiformes (Rheindt & Austin, 2005), this must be considered very tentative however.

It breeds in the north Atlantic in the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira Islands (Bugio Island). This endangered species nests in colonies in burrows in spring and autumn. It lays a single white egg.

This seabird is strictly nocturnal at the breeding sites to avoid predation by gulls. Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.

This long-winged petrel is 33"?36 cm in length with an 86"?94 cm wingspan. It has a grey back and wings, with a dark "W" marking across the wings. The undersides of the wings are dark and the belly is white. It has a fast impetuous flight. It picks planktonic food items from the ocean surface.

This species is very similar to the Zino's Petrel, but is larger and has a thicker black bill. It is a rare visitor to waters off the eastern USA, though known only from sight records and photographs. (The American Ornithologists' Union has not accepted these records, and the American Birding Association has accepted them only as "Fea's/Zino's Petrel", to the annoyance of birders who are confident that they identified this species correctly.) It is also an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe, principally Great Britain and Ireland, though most records there are also acceptable only as "Fea's/ Zino's", with the exception of three at-sea records in British waters.

This bird is named after the Italian zoologist Leonardo Fea.


The identification of Fea's Petrel, and its separation from Zino's Petrel under field conditions is an unresolved problem. The US ornithologist Michael Tove has worked on this problem, and believes that wing-shape is a reliable feature for the separation of this species-pair. This has been disupted by other authors, such as Andrew Harrop. However, Tove has criticised the approach of his critics, arguing that he has presented detailed data to support his conclusions, whereas those who are unwilling to accept them are adopting the tactic of "Truth by Decry".

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feas_petrel's Range Map Click here to see the Fea's Petrel's range map!

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