Seabird lands on Ship

Every now and then, a confused seabird will land on a ship and be unable to fly away.

In this case, our bird was a Cape Petrel.

Cape Petrels are pelagic seabirds meaning that they spend their lives looking for food at sea and come ashore each year usually only during mating season.

Pelagic birds have a little “tubenose” on top of the bill which filters the salt from salt water.

Some Petrels give the illusion of walking on the surface of the water. This reminded sailors of the character Peter who, in the bible, walked on water briefly. Sailors began calling these birds “Peters” or Petrels.

As ships sail south to Antarctica there are often dozens of birds following them, playing in the wind currents or looking for food that the ship might force to the surface of the ocean.

Cape Petrels eat cephalopods, crustaceans and fish which are taken by surface-seizing.

Cape Petrels breed in November – December in loose colonies on level rocky ground or moderately high cliffs with many ledges.

One white egg is incubated for 41 – 50 days.

Chicks fledge (become adults) in 45 – 57 days.

I often see and hear them in the cliffs at Deception Island.

This Cape Petrel was successfully returned to the sky and sea.

March 3, 2017

Miles Hearn

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