13 Petrel Facts You’ll Never Forget

Explore Petrel facts, these Petrels nest in densely packed colonies.

Petrels are seabirds with tube-noses that belong to the Procellariiformes order, adapted to life within the marine environment. Petrels belong to the most cosmopolitan group as they occur in both Northern and Southern hemispheres' tropical, temperate, and polar zones. Still, the majority do not breed in the tropics, and half of the species are restricted to southern temperate and polar zones. Almost all Petrels remain at sea, excluding the two largest species; they only come to land to dig burrows and breed in them as to defend themselves against predatory birds. The largest member of the Petrel family is the Giant Petrels, while the smallest are Storm Petrels. The Snow Petrel (Pagodroma Nivea) is a stunning bird that is as white as snow. If you visit its territory, you will undoubtedly encounter hundreds, and rarely in thousands, as they tend to be spread out over a wide nesting area being colonial. While exploitation has become less of a problem today, various other factors such as their breeding grounds, pollution, marine fisheries, and climate change are the most severe threats.

There are many more fascinating facts; take a look at our paradise birds facts as well as our barn owls facts.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Fish, squid, crustacea, fish discards, and carrion

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

Smallest: 0.59 lb Largest: 6.6–17.6 lb

How long are they?

Smallest: 5-6 in

Largest: 34-39 in

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black, gray, beige, white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least concern

Where you'll find them

Sea Surface







Scientific Name

Snow Petrel: Pagodroma nivea Blue Petrel: Halobaena caerulea




Pagodroma, Halobaena, Macronectes, Fulmarus, Thalassoica, Daption, Pachyptila, Procellaria, Bulweria, Calonectris, Puffinus, Pelecanoides, Ardenna, Pseudobulweria, Aphrodroma, Pterodroma

Petrel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Petrel?

The Petrel refers to a group of tube-nosed seabirds accustomed to living in a marine climate.

What class of animal does a Petrel belong to?

The Petrel birds belong to the class of Aves.

How many Petrels are there in the world?

The word Petrel is the collective name for seabird of order Procellariiformes of four families: Albatrosses, Petrels, and Shearwaters, as well as two families of Storm Petrels. As a result, determining the total population can be challenging under one study is hardly available.

Where does a Petrel live?

The different species can be found worldwide, in the open sea, and on the search for food in coastal waters or islands varying between extreme temperatures. For instance, some live in cool Antarctica, South Georgia, Scotia Arc, or the Arctic, while others live in small islands in tropical oceans.

What is a Petrel habitat?

Petrels live in a wide range of habitats, including seas, islands, and continents, depending on the species. Each of them is different and has a unique range, out of which the northern and southern hemispheres and tropical areas as the Antarctic peninsula are home to several species. Seas north of New Zealand have the greatest number of species while they are absent in Bengal and Hudson Bay.

Who does Petrel live with?

Much of the time, they forage in single-species flocks. They form colonies that are among the world's largest bird colonies in breeding seasons, creating one of the world's greatest wildlife views.

How long does a Petrel live?

The life span of these members of the Procellariidae family varies significantly from land birds. However, they live much longer lives ranging from twenty to sixty years in general.

How do they reproduce?

Petrels are colonial, nesting mostly on islands. These colonies can range in size from over a million birds to just a few pairs, and they can be tightly packed or widely spaced. Most Petrel colonies are found on islands free of mammals, as they can only breed in a few places. Species that breed on continental Antarctica, such as the Antarctic Petrel, are forced to breed in only a few locations due to habitat choices like a snow-free north-facing rock. The majority of the Petrels nest in burrows or crevices, with a few tropical species nesting in the open while the Snow Petrel nesting in natural crevices and cliffs. Petrel has good site fidelity, returning to the same nesting site, burrow, or territory in consecutive years, in addition to having high natal philopatry. After mating, Petrels lay mostly one egg per year. The care of the young will last up to six months.

What is their conservation status?

While some Petrels have a population in the millions, several are less common, and some are threatened with extinction. The IUCN lists 43 species as vulnerable or threatened, with 11 critically endangered.

Petrel Fun Facts

What do Petrels look like?

Explore beautiful Snow petrels with circumpolar distribution and nesting on cliffs.

Petrels are a varied species, each with its distinct appearance and behavior. Some of them have rich and uniform coloration, while others have mottled plumage or feathers. Most Petrels have dense plumage and waterproof plumage to protect them from getting wet and cold. They are found in several different colors, which include black, grey, beige, white, and any variation.

The Snow Petrel is a bright white bird found in the peninsula of Antarctica with white plumage that blends in with the snow providing them with excellent camouflage. One more is the Blue Petrel, which has distinctive blue-gray feathers, and the feathers on their back form a slightly M-shaped pattern.

How cute are they?

The word Petrel refers explicitly to a group of adorable seabirds. Watching them with distinct features over or near the ocean is like a unique connection to nature. For example, watching the Antarctic Petrel that lives in Antarctica is a dark brown and white petrel with prominent markings. The Cape petrel  has a distinct appearance with a black head and body, a white belly and breast, and a white underwing with a black border. The cutest Snow Petrel is found in the Antarctic peninsula with white plumage that blends in with the snows.

How do they communicate?

Petrels communicate through song, call notes, and actions.

How big is a Petrel?

Giant Petrels are the largest member related to this genus, measuring 34–39 inches in length, while the smallest is storm petrel measures near 5-6 in in length.

How fast can a Petrel move?

The Speed of certain Petrels is observed, such as Giant Petrels, which can fly at speeds up to 44.7 mph in optimal conditions, while Snow Petrel can fly at speeds of up to 24.85 mph.

How much does a Petrel weigh?

It has been noted that the weight of the largest Giant Petrels varies from 6.6–17.6 lb to the known smallest weight of Snow Petrel is approximately 0.59 lb.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is still no official name related to Petrel between male and female Petrels.

What would you call a baby Petrel?

A baby Petrel is termed as a chick.

What do they eat?

Petrels have a more diverse diet than other seabirds. Their main feed is Fish, Octopus, Krill, Shrimp, Squid, and other sea creatures. Some of them, such as the Giant-petrel and Snow Petrel, feed themselves on the Penguins, Seals, and other marine animal carcasses, and they are even predators of their eggs and chicks.

Are they poisonous?

There is no evidence that Petrels are poisonous, but they can be highly aggressive and kill other seabirds while feeding and breeding colonies.

Would they make a good pet?

Petrels are not suitable as pets. Most countries make it illegal to have one as a pet.

Did you know...

Petrel is a unique feature as they have a keen sense of smell, which they use to locate widely dispersed food in a large ocean and differentiate familiar nest odors from unfamiliar ones.

Do petrels eat penguins?

Some Petrels, like giant Southern Petrels, capture and kill Penguins to feed themselves. It is also observed that Snow petrel also consumes carrion of dead penguin chicks.

Petrel bird call

They are generally silent at sea but make calls related to the sight of predators, defend territories, and call their mates. Each type of call is unique, and they may also recognize the sex of the bird's calling.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these crowned eagle facts and chipping sparrow facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our petrel coloring pages.



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