Photo: Steve Young/Vireo

Leach's Storm-Petrel

Oceanodroma leucorhoa

A small dark seabird that flies low over the water with erratic, bounding wingbeats. Unlike Wilson's Storm-Petrel, it seldom follows ships. Nests on islands off both coasts of North America, most commonly off eastern Canada. Silent and usually solitary at sea, it becomes very vocal when visiting its nesting islands at night, filling the darkness with spooky chattering, trilling, and sputtering cries.
Conservation status Total population probably in the millions, but thought to have declined in recent decades. On nesting islands, vulnerable to disturbance by predators, especially introduced mammals such as rats.
Family Storm-Petrels
Habitat Open ocean; nesting colonies in turf on offshore islands. Widespread at sea, concentrating around upwellings and areas where cold and warm currents meet. Forages over continental shelf but also far out to sea; off Pacific Coast, generally seen farther offshore than other storm-petrels. Nests on islands with soil for nesting burrows.
A small dark seabird that flies low over the water with erratic, bounding wingbeats. Unlike Wilson's Storm-Petrel, it seldom follows ships. Nests on islands off both coasts of North America, most commonly off eastern Canada. Silent and usually solitary at sea, it becomes very vocal when visiting its nesting islands at night, filling the darkness with spooky chattering, trilling, and sputtering cries.
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  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by hovering or skimming low over water and taking items from surface. Seldom sits on water to feed. May feed by day or night. Sometimes associated with feeding whales or seals.


Eggs

One. White, some with band of purplish dots toward large end. Incubation is by both sexes, 38-46 days. Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation, visiting at night. Feeding rate declines as young matures. Period from hatching to young bird's departure from nest is about 9-10 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed young, by regurgitation, visiting at night. Feeding rate declines as young matures. Period from hatching to young bird's departure from nest is about 9-10 weeks.

Diet

Mostly crustaceans. Feeds mainly on small crustaceans, including euphausiid shrimp, amphipods, copepods, larval stages of spiny lobster; also small squid, possibly some small fish. Scavenges at slicks of oil and fat on sea surface.


Nesting

First breeds at age of 4 or 5 years. Nests in colonies on islands, coming ashore only at night. Nest: Site is in burrow under grass, rocks, or tree roots; burrow is usually 1-3' long, sometimes more than 5'. Male digs burrow, mostly using feet. Several burrow entrances may be very close together, or several nests may be in side branches of one tunnel. May also use natural holes and crevices at times. Nest chamber usually lined with leaves, grass.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Movements not well known. Majority of birds in both Atlantic and Pacific apparently move south to spend winter months in tropical seas, although there are some winter reports at northerly latitudes.

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Migration

Movements not well known. Majority of birds in both Atlantic and Pacific apparently move south to spend winter months in tropical seas, although there are some winter reports at northerly latitudes.

Songs and Calls
A variety of trills, screams, and cooing notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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