White-bellied storm petrel

The White-bellied Storm-Petrel is very similar to the Black-bellied Storm-Petrel Fregetta tropica, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Oceanites oceanicus and the Grey-backed Storm-Petrel, Garrodia nereis. It can be difficult to separate these species in the field. It has a wide oceanic distribution in the south Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, ranging into tropical waters from its various breeding grounds.

The White-bellied Storm-Petrel breeds in the New Zealand region in the Kermadec Islands group. It also breeds in the Australian region on offshore islets and rocks in the Lord Howe Island group, and on Macauley and Curtis Islands. Its pelagic distribution in the area is poorly understood, but it has been recorded north and east of its breeding islands to the tropics, in the Tasman Sea, Coral Sea, and north of New Zealand and it is thought that some birds reach the central Pacific Ocean. It has also been recorded over near-shore waters off the coasts of mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, and dead birds have been collected from the coasts of Tasmania and New Zealand.

The White-bellied Storm-Petrel breeds in late summer and autumn. Eggs are laid from January to March, and the young fledge in May. It nests in crevices between large volcanic rocks, or in burrows excavated in banks. The nest chamber is sparsely lined with dried grass. It occurs at sea during the day, and returns to its breeding colonies at night. The young are fed by both parents on a mixture of crustaceans and squid.

The White-bellied Storm-Petrel forages by skimming low over the ocean, sometimes pattering the water with its feet, and plucking small crustaceans and squid from beneath the surface of the water. It forages both at day and at night, usually far from shore.

— Greytown, 2008

Sub Species:

Vieillot’s Storm-Petrel, Broad-tailed Storm-Petrel, Mother Carey’s Chickens, Little Peters, Jesus bird, Thalassidroma Leucogaster.

Description:  — 

Native bird

20cm, 50g, black upperparts, mantle feathers often white tipped, white tipped rump, black chin, throat, breast and undertail. A small, compact storm-petrel with a square cut tail, white forehead, face and underparts and a broad dark mark through the eye. Upperparts are dark grey. Various colour phases have been observed, including a dark phase, having sooty plumage, with only the rump and belly showing white.

Where to find:  — 

Breeds in the Kermadecs in the NZ region.

Poetry:  — 

When it blows a hard gale of wind the Stormy Petrel makes its appearance. While the sea runs mountains high, and every wave threatens destruction to the labouring vessel, this little harbinger of storms is seen enjoying itself, on rapid pinion, up and down the roaring billows. When the storm is over it appears no more. It must have been hatched in Æolus's cave, amongst a clutch of squalls and tempests; for whenever they get out upon the ocean it always contrives to be of the party.

— Charles Waterton

Illustration description: — 


Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1840-48

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Olliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 


Sunday, 1 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2008    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.