Antarctic prions are prions that are also known as whalebirds and small petrels. They are found in the Southern Ocean waters and in the breeding season, along the coasts of the islands around Antarctica. Places like the Crozet, Kerguelen, Auckland, Heard, South Georgia and Sandwich, and the South Orkney Islands are where they breed. In the non-breeding season, they return to their preferred pelagic, marine habitats. They are mostly colored blue, gray, and white. They feed by surface-seizing fish and krill while they are hydroplaning and shallow-diving. Being prions, they also have fringed upper mandibles that help them filter planktonic food. They are fast, buoyant, and erratic fliers known to exhibit twisting glides and short busts via shallow wingbeats.
As of 2004, the world population of Antarctic prions was 50,000,000 mature individuals but due to habitat loss, introduced predation, and krill exploitation, their numbers seem to be declining. They are still a Least Concern species according to the IUCN.
Crustaceans, krill, copepods, amphipods, lanternfish, squid, and zooplankton
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
4.1-6.5 oz (115-183 g)
How long are they?
9.8-11 in (25-28 cm)
How tall are they?
Wingspan: 22.8-26 in (58-66 cm)
What do they look like?
Blue-gray, gray, black, white, and pinkish
What are their main threats?
Humans, skuas, rats, cats, and wekas
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Open & cold waters, slopes, gullies, plateaus, cliffs, screes, and rock crevices
Antarctic Prion Interesting Facts
What type of animal is an Antarctic prion?
The Antarctic prion (scientific name Pachyptila desolata) is a bird, a whalebird, and a small petrel.
What class of animal does an Antarctic prion belong to?
The Antarctic prion (Pachyptila desolata) belongs to the Aves class of animals.
How many Antarctic prions are there in the world?
Although current populations are not very well-known, the Antarctic prion population of the world in 2004 was around 50,000,000 mature individuals.
Where does an Antarctic prion live?
The Antarctic prion is native to the Southern Ocean waters and the coasts of islands around Antarctica. There are three subspecies of the Antarctic prion that occupy specific habitat ranges in the breeding season.
The nominate Pachyptila desolata desolata subspecies is known to breed on Kerguelen Island and Crozet Island as well as Macquarie Island. The Pachyptila desolata altera prions subspecies breed on Auckland Island and Heard Island. The Pachyptila desolata banksi occupies the Scotia Arc, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and the Scott Island.
The South Orkney Islands also see some Antarctic prions.
After breeding, Antarctic prions can be seen over the southern Indian and southern Atlantic Oceans, as well as along the subtropical latitudes off the continent of South America, especially the south Peruvian and south Chilean coasts. Australia and South Africa also have some Antarctic prions.
What is an Antarctic prion's habitat?
Outside of the breeding season, these birds in Antarctica like to remain around open water and are highly pelagic. The cold marine waters north of the Antarctic ice are preferred.
In the breeding season, the Antarctic prion bird likes to nest in burrows in different habitat types like plateaus, slopes, gullies, cliffs, screes, and rock crevices.
Whom do Antarctic prions live with?
Antarctic prions are mostly seen in large flocks, seldom with other species of prions. They are social and gregarious, both on land and sea.
How long does an Antarctic prion live?
The Antarctic prion lifespan is around 15-20 years.
How do they reproduce?
The Antarctic prion, or the prion dove, species reproduces via mating and egg-laying. They form long-lasting and monogamous pairs. Females are known to indulge in a feeding and pre-egg-laying exodus in November. Both males and females return to the breeding colonies in October and early November. The colonies are dense with one to four burrows in a small area. The nest chambers are lined with twigs, liches, mosses, and pebbles.
Sexual activity and mating displays happen in the burrows. There is 'billing' which involves oil drizzling down the bills and mutual preening succeeded by long calls. A solitary white egg is laid by the female and both parents incubate the nest for 44-46 days, switching every one to five days. Only one brood is produced per season. The hatched chicks have gray down feathers and both parents feed the chick. Fledging happens 45-55 days post-hatching.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of the Antarctic prion species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature is Least Concern.
Antarctic Prion Fun Facts
What do Antarctic prions look like?
The adult of the Antarctic prion, also known as a prion dove, species has upperparts that are blue-gray to gray. This bird also has a blackish M-shape across its upper wings. The upper tail has a black broad tip and is colored gray to blue-gray.
The underparts, underwing, and undertail areas are all white with the exception of the central rectrices that have a dark area. Antarctic prions have mostly gray thighs. The crown, head, and forehead are a darker shade of gray. There is an eye-stripe that is dusky. The lores, the supercilium, the lower face, and the cheek are all white, and the neck-sides tend to be blue-gray.
The bill is broad, has a black culmen, and is overall blue-gray. The upper mandible of the bill has comb-like filters called lamellae that are not seen when the bill is shut. The eyes are black and the webbed feet and legs are gray to blue. The webs on the feet have a pinkish tinge. There is no sexual dimorphism between the males and the females.
The juveniles look like adults. Prior to molting, the M-shape on the bleach upper wing turns patchily white.
How cute are they?
This seabird with black wingtips is incredibly cute. They are almost monochromatic but very beautiful. They display white, black, blue, and gray colors and a beautiful M-shaped stripe in flight. These medium-sized beauties are seen mostly above the water. They are also dedicated nesting parents to their baby chicks.
How do they communicate?
The Antarctic prion species communicate via calls, songs, visual displays, smell, and tactile and acoustic means of communication.
These birds utter loud, twittering, and shrill squeals, squawks, and dove-like croonings that sound like 'uc coo uc coo u-u-u-u-u-uc cuc coo o-o-o-o', during the nighttime in their colonies. Also, they give out piping whistles in their burrows and when flying over colonies. Since they are nocturnal, they also use acoustic and tactile signals, as well as smells. These petrels are mostly silent when at sea.
During territorial defenses, threatening postures, hisses, and calls are utilized.
How big is an Antarctic prion?
Antarctic prions are 9.8-11 in (25-28 cm) and have wingspans of 22.8-26 in (58-66 cm), which makes them about five times bigger than bee hummingbirds.
How fast can an Antarctic prion fly?
Antarctic prions fly at speeds close to 21.8 mph (35 kph).
How much does an Antarctic prion weigh?
Antarctic prions weigh 4.1-6.5 oz (115-183 g) and their average weight is 5.3 oz (150 g).
What are the male and female names of the species?
Males and females of the Antarctic prion species are not referred to by any specific names, however, they may be called cocks and hens respectively since they are birds.
What would you call a baby Antarctic prion?
A baby Antarctic prion (Pachyptila desolata) is called a chick.
What do they eat?
The Antarctic prion diet includes crustaceans, krill, copepods, amphipods, lanternfish, squid, and zooplankton.
They themselves face threats from predators like skuas, rats, cats, and wekas.
Are they dangerous?
No, Antarctic prions are not dangerous.
Would they make a good pet?
No, Antarctic prions would not make good pets. They are wild birds that live in their preferred habitats close to Antarctica like the Southern Ocean waters and South Georgia Island.
Did you know...
Prions feed by snapping up shallow prey from the water with their bills or using their upper mandible lamellae to filter plankton.
Prions breed in soil burrows, sharing nesting duties, and living in colonies. Incubation usually lasts for about 50 days. Most species start their breeding season in August.
The easiest way to identify an Antarctic prion is to spot the dark, M-shaped stripe across the upper wings.
Antarctic prions are seen feeding around killer whale predators in the southwest parts of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Antarctic prion's scientific name is Pachyptila desolata, and the family name is Procellariidae.
Do Antarctic prions migrate?
Antarctic prions do not really migrate. In the breeding season, these petrels come to habitats like plateaus, slopes, gullies, cliffs, and screes in places like the Kerguelen Islands, South Orkney Islands, Heard Islands, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands, and Prion Island.
Outside the breeding season, the usual Antarctic prion location is their pelagic habitat range which are the marine waters of the Southern Oceans.
Are prions social?
Yes, prions are social and gregarious birds. These small petrels breed and forage in large flocks, sometimes with other prions as well.
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.
Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.
We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.
Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.
We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.